Popular baking shows demonstrate that in the final round, inventiveness may thrill and technical prowess impresses, but it’s usually the flavors that inspire. No one was complaining at the Holland Center on Friday night when the Omaha Symphony managed to do all three. But like a great reality TV conclusion, the performance that did the inspiring was an exciting upset.
The concert was billed as “Brahms’ Fourth.” Conducted by James Feddeck, the Omaha Symphony opened the evening with the overture to Carl Maria von Weber’s opera, “Der Freischütz.”
Weber’s operatic presentation of an old German folk tale combined swirling orchestral textures with groundbreaking storytelling sound effects when it premiered in 1821. The overture to the piece was fittingly unique for the era in which in premiered. It was also certainly a great deal of fun as played by the Omaha Symphony.
Feddeck was as colorful to watch as the score he conducted. He never distracted from the instrumentalists, but at the same time, every single moment of the score seemed to dance off of his baton. Shudders, triumphs, sighs and laughter were as evident in Feddeck’s gestures as in the sweeping orchestral array.
The namesake of the program, Brahms’ Fourth Symphony, was actually the closing piece of the night. Brahms’ inventive rhythms and rich, sensitive passages were delightful in the hands of such a skilled ensemble.
If this was the baking show alluded to above, the Weber would have been the thrilling, unique component and the Brahms would have been the technically impressive offering. When the concert ended, the audience dutifully, if slowly, rose to their feet to applaud.
But looking back, it was the program’s second piece, Samuel Barber’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, that truly inspired the Holland’s patrons. Violin soloist Stefan Jackiw was an integral factor in the orchestra’s dazzling display. Jackiw possessed a sublime dexterity throughout the athletic and ecstatic piece. His body and bow moved in an almost dancelike manner to Barber’s trademark lyrical melody lines, and the tone of his playing took on an uncanny voicelike quality.
The composition itself was otherworldly. Familiar harmonic language and unusual but intuitive melodic passages combined to entrance the listeners.
It was an altogether fantastic night of music, but the climax was definitely before intermission, when the Barber concluded and the audience leapt to its feet in ovation.
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