Masterworks concert upholds high standards 

CSO Celebrates Survival

Board president Ted Legasy announced at last Saturday's Masterworks concert that the CSO's musicians and management agreed that day to trade draconian, across-the-board pay cuts for the certain prospect of the orchestra's survival (mostly intact). The immediate consequence was the evening's launch of subscription ticket sales for next season while unveiling an attractive program calendar. Check out Eargasms ( for more details.

Maestro David Stahl and his relieved band then proceeded to celebrate their mixed fortunes with a varied concert that demonstrated again their virtuosity and musicianship. First up was The Hebrides, a thrilling concert overture inspired by composer Felix Mendelssohn's journey to Scotland.

Our musicians delivered this mostly dark-toned piece with luminous sound; the small strings section seemed larger-than-life. Stahl and company caught the music's inherent gloom, while bringing out the drama and excitement of its stormy episodes.

Enter CSO principal Charles Messersmith for a memorable rendition of Aaron Copland's terrific Clarinet Concerto. With only strings (plus harp and piano) backing him up, the piece had an intimate feel to it.

In the opening slow movement, the clarinet offered dreamy, limpid musings, floating over a soft bed of diaphanous textures from strings and harp. The central cadenza was all solo clarinet — and Messersmith let out all the stops here, dazzling us with his champion chops.

The animated finale unfolded as a perky, sophisticated cakewalk, with plenty of subtle, jazzy swing to it (right down to some groovy slap-string playing from the double basses). It ended with some high-intensity wailing on top of some hot jazz licks that brought the house down.

Bravo, Charlie!

After halftime came Franz Schubert's glowing Unfinished Symphony (No. 8). The first movement's gossamer opening string textures were a joy to the ear, leading into the most soulful orchestral passages Schubert ever wrote. The songful second (and final) movement featured some especially ravishing work from Gretchen Roper (clarinet) and Nick Masterson (oboe).

But since the Schubert had no real fast movement, Stahl and company ended the evening with a manic reading of the headlong finale from Josef Haydn's Clock Symphony (No. 101), and the regrettably sparse crowd's ovation inspired them to repeat it. Then we all went home doubly happy, knowing that our band will live to play another season.


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