Warren Gerds Review The Press Gazette

Green Bay Press Gazette
Concert review
Green Bay Symphony Orchestra: Classics 5
4 stars out of 4
Posted April 13, 2008

Review: Symphony finale an ode to joy, indeed

By Warren Gerds

The Green Bay Symphony Orchestra and conductor Bridget-Michaele Reischl ended the 2007-2008 season triumphantly Saturday night at the Weidner Center with a world premiere, Ludwig van Beethoven's "Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125" and a significant assist from the Dudley Birder Chorale of St. Norbert College.

The hall bristled with excitement at the conclusion. Cheers and heavy applause erupted the moment the last barrage from Beethoven's "Ninth" faded.

The concert was interesting from start to finish.

The evening opened with a video taped months ago of composer-in-residence Daniel Kellogg talking about basic thoughts behind his work, "La Luz," based on a poem by Jeannie E. Roberts of Chippewa falls.

The poem was chosen as a finalist from a statewide contest. Kellogg then picked "La Luz" from the finalist pool as the text for his commissioned work for full orchestra and choir.

"La Luz," the poem, opens with these lines:

"Halo, lantern's glow, Prism, starry night

"Moonbeam, glistening stream

"La lux, lumiere, light"

"La Luz," the composition, is equally impressionistic. It's a collection of musical ideas that came to Kellogg's mind when thinking of light. With imagination, it's fairly easy to follow.

It opens softly, as if at dawn. It builds and grows more active. One can imagine soaring in the sky, rays of sun chasing across the ground on a partly cloudy day, an eerie shadow, a glaring blitz of light as bright sunshine hits roiling water, among many other pictures the music created.

"La Luz" starts and finishes peacefully. In sections, it is dissonant as the orchestra and the chorale rather noisily portray multiple images at once.

By design, the chorale was another "instrument" in the orchestra. Kellogg and Reischl were able to strike a balance of sound to pull off the effect.

At the end of the eight-minute "La Luz," Reischl called Kellogg to the stage. He was warmly received by the audience.

Because the piece is short, Reischl took the opportunity to ask Kellogg to explain his piece a bit before the orchestra played it again.

Kellogg said he isn't telling a story with the work. Rather, it is a collection of his feelings and emotions when "light comes from a source and touches many things."

Kellogg is the third of four composers-in-residence in a special grant project for the orchestra.

"La Luz" may be short, but its logistics give pause: Its basic requirements Saturday were a 67-piece symphonic orchestra and 160 voices of the chorale.

The scene on stage was equally impressive for "La Luz" and Beethoven's "Ninth," for which four international vocal soloists were added.

The "Ninth" is a horse -- giant at times.

It is Beethoven totally in command and doing things that still seem daring 183 years after its premiere – sudden stops, quick turns, putting soloists and sections on the spot time and again.

Over the course of 75 minutes, it's filled with a zillion hairpin turns and nuances.

The first movement is vibrant or stormy when it's not turning inward.

The second and third movements include famed passages – striding steps in the second, shimmering tones in the sometimes-sleepy third.

The fourth is the one people have been talking about since the start. It contains "Ode to Joy" played and sung multiple times in glorious ways.

In full-tilt moments Saturday, holy cow, the orchestra was as dynamic as it's ever been, the chorale was as explosive as it's ever been and Reischl was as energized as she's ever been.

The first time the "Ode to Joy" theme was played -- very softly by the cellos and basses combined -- it was like silk gently brushing skin.

The orchestra, chorale, (prepared by Dudley Birder and Kent Paulsen), soloists (Jennifer Hines, mezzo-soprano; Jeffrey Springer, tenor; Daniel Okulitch, bass; and Elza Van De Heever, soprano) delivered all that the work and Reischl asked.

The season ended on an extreme high.

The dates for next season are set: Oct. 18, Nov. 15, Feb. 14, March 21 and April 18 for the Classics series; Dec. 5 and 6 for "Holiday Pops;" and Dec. 20 for "Holiday Classics."

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