July 13, 2020

BSO concert takes chill off a wintry weekend

To all the superhuman efforts of the weekend, add the classical concert performed by the Bangor Symphony Orchestra Sunday afternoon at the Maine Center for the Arts in Orono. You couldn’t exactly call it a humanitarian feat, but it was undeniably a good deed in a world of naughty weather.

Mel Braverman, president of the BSO board, addressed the audience of about 800 (including an intrepid crew who rode chartered buses from the coast) and applauded the outstanding work of staff and community members who worked overtime to make the concert possible.

But the musicians were the real heroes, he said. The night before, at a rehearsal at Bangor High School, the musicians were given the option to cancel the concert, but they nearly unanimously asserted that the show must go on.

Appropriately enough, the theme of the afternoon was American spirit. Two works by the Yankee composer Charles Ives had a illustriously skewed patriotism at heart. “The Unanswered Question” featured four opinionated flute parts, which were spotlighted onstage, while strings and a trumpet gave plaintive calls from the orchestra pit below. “Country Band March” had a carnivalesque eeriness to it, and the orchestra played with twisted delight and romping skill.

Maria Harding, principal flutist for the Omaha Symphony Orchestra, gave a smart and clean performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Halil, Nocturne for Flute and Orchestra.” Harding, who is 27, caught hold of the exuberance and sassiness Bernstein intended for this piece about a young Israeli flutist killed in war. But she also reflected the poetry of the more serious theme of a life cut short. Harding proved herself a stalwart musician, but because Bernstein’s piece is not a true virtuoso piece for a soloist, she left the audience wanting more.

Fanfare from “China Dreams” by Chinese-American composer Bright Sheng was truly a smashing success — literally, as this five-minute piece erupted with frisky bings, bangs and bongs.

The concert really belonged to the woodwinds, particularly in Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95 (“From the New Word”). Conductor Christopher Zimmerman took his time with the scenery of this work, and led the musicians through a performance that could be both jiggish and pensive. A perky third movement was the

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