Stage & Dance

Terrell's rich cast of Philharmonic pros dazzle with sophistication

Lexington Philharmonic principal flute Pei-San Chiu will be the featured soloist on John Corigliano's composition Voyage at the orchestra's November concert.
Lexington Philharmonic principal flute Pei-San Chiu will be the featured soloist on John Corigliano's composition Voyage at the orchestra's November concert. Staff

The Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra presented a highly sophisticated concert on Friday night at the Singletary Center for the Arts. Music director and conductor Scott Terrell selected works to feature several instrumental soloists in this interesting program, but the orchestra itself sounded excellent, playing with vigor and precision throughout the evening.

The concert opened with Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture, a lovely piece in which Terrell achieved a rich blend of timbres, particularly from the brass and woodwinds as they layered over the solid playing by the strings. The subtlety and finesse of the orchestra's ensemble is a sure marker of the group's augmented professional profile under Terrell's leadership.

Next, the Philharmonic offered the dynamic Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor by Shostakovich, scored for piano, trumpet and string orchestra. Pianist Fei-Fei Dong gave a superb performance comprised of equal parts power and nuance. Her playing was clean, her interpretation was vibrant, and her performance was compelling. Her physical embodiment of the music as she played, especially her expressive face, added a visual element to her stunning virtuosity that drew the audience in to this infrequently heard, but immediately accessible, concerto.

The all-important trumpet solos in the Shostakovich were supplied by the Philharmonic's own principal trumpeter Stephen Campbell with elegant musicality and rhythmic vitality, and the string orchestra's contribution was supportive and engaged. Terrell coordinated the musical forces with incisive attention to detail and a sure sense of the work's overall shape.

After intermission, the concert continued with another composition for soloist and string orchestra, John Corigliano's diaphanous Voyage, featuring the Philharmonic's principal flutist Pei-San Chiu, who played with a pure, burnished sound. Her intonation was so secure that the sonority of the flute sometimes blended imperceptibly into, then back out of, the tone of the violins.

Anchoring the evening was a traversal of Mozart's beloved Symphony No. 40 in G minor. This, too, the orchestra played beautifully, although I could churlishly point out a few little ensemble bobbles toward the middle and end of the last movement. Also, for my taste, Terrell had the orchestra taper too much at the ends of phrases, which in Mozart already often occurs on weak beats, so that the listener frequently lost the last, resolving note of a phrase altogether. But these are small complaints in the face of such lofty musical accomplishments as this concert boasted.

Finally, it should be noted that some of the finest solo playing of the evening came from the corpus of the orchestra itself, not just from the featured performers. Principal clarinetist Michael Acord had gorgeous moments in both the Mozart and the Mendelssohn, especially in duet with his clarinet colleague Mark Kleine, and concertmaster Daniel Mason ravished the ear with his ethereal violin work in the Corigliano. And a special bravo to the Philharmonic strings, who carried most of the burden of the evening's music-making with charm and aplomb.

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