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Symphony presents concert of soothing, pastoral music

Mike Dunham

The Anchorage Symphony presented an exceedingly tranquil program on Saturday night. Even the "modern" piece, Eric Ewazen's 1999 concerto for oboe and string orchestra titled "Down a River of Time," drifted in a pastorale mood.

The piece has the soloist -- on Saturday it was ASO principal oboist Sharman Piper -- playing almost continually through meandering harmonic modulations that Haydn would have found acceptable. The neo-romantic cast of the piece brims with melodic lines, but is largely without tunes. The most memorable moments come in the E minor introductory figure, suggestive of wave or current motion, and the good-natured, easy-rollin' main theme of the finale. The strings play the latter at least three times, with the soloist elaborating over it.

Piper's performance was alert and agile, with careful expressiveness, especially in the melancholy slow movement. But figure after beautiful figure appeared then vanished without ever making a larger point.

The composer brought her a big bouquet when they took their bows with conductor Randall Craig Fleischer. The audience seemed appreciative, which has to be taken as a plus for any serious composition written in the last 100 years or so, especially since it didn't rely on the fleet of exotic percussion so enthusiastically deployed by many composers to produce sound effects in lieu of music.

The evening opened with the strings by themselves in a rather muffled reading of Wolfgang Mozart's "Eine kleine Nachtmusic." While adequate, it lacked a sense of sparkle that might have been forthcoming had the number of players been further reduced to just the very best players.

The concluding piece, the Serenade No. 1 of Johannes Brahms, fared better, despite occasional troubles in the horns. Fleischer particularly seemed on top of his game in the first part of the first movement and in the all-important Adagio, which is the soul of this piece.

Prior to the concert it was reported that Atwood Hall had sold out for the show. While a few dozen seats remained empty, they were surely no-shows. People hoping for tickets to upcoming concerts should probably act sooner rather than later.

Find Mike Dunham online at adn.com/contact/mdunham or call 257-4332.


By MIKE DUNHAM
mdunham@adn.com
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