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BENNETT: Masterworks was just what was needed - Odessa American: Ronald Bennett

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Review by Ronald Bennett BENNETT: Masterworks was just what was needed

Ronald Bennett is an Odessa music teacher and the fine arts critic for the Odessa American.

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Posted: Friday, November 9, 2018 4:15 am

Saturday night found me at the Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center to hear their Masterworks Concert entitled “Pastoral.”

I was with a friend who had never been there before and he was a little confused because it did not look like the halls with which he was familiar in the Boston area. Yes, this great hall is not like the ones back east. There is not one seat where you are behind a post. There is not a place where you cannot hear the different ranges of the orchestra. I was very proud to have shown him the space even though I could not provide a backdrop of classical pillars.

The concert was just what I needed.

When they programmed the concert which featured familiar, gentle music. “The Hebrides” of Felix Mendelssohn, the Concerto for Double Bass No. Two by Giovanni Bottessini and completed it in second half with the Beethoven Symphony No. 6 known as the “Pastoral” symphony.

The music could be characterized as a “Gentle” program.

It was one that was very much needed in the wake of the chaotic week that preceded it. The brutal attack of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg and the vitriolic political attacks that have been filling the newspapers and air waves have created a mood of unrest.

Therefore I now proclaim that this much needed concert was: Healing.

When I left the hall I had been revived in spirit.

I found it to be a healing concert both aurally and spiritually.

Gary Lewis has transformed the symphony.

From the opening notes of the Mendelssohn you could hear the attention to phrases, clarity of the parts and the overall sound of this familiar and pleasing work.

He is a master of the orchestral crescendo. The players are well attuned to his every gesture.

Ah, the noble double bass!

All through the literature it is often assigned the job of providing the basis of all the other parts.

It was a pleasure to see Jack Unzicker display his superb virtuoso technique in playing the concerto.

This openly Romantic work allowed him to display long phrases in the slow movement ending on a beautifully held final note that led into a vigorous final Allegro in which all manner of intricate bass technique was displayed.

It was another instance of revealing a tremendous work in a fitting, accepting setting.

I found it to be enlightening. (I lived next door to a double bass player when I was in Cincinnati and, believe me, this sounded NOTHING like his practice sessions!)

What can we say about the Beethoven Sixth Symphony?

It follows the emphatically dramatic fifth symphony and serves as a gentle interlude before the remaining three.

It is as close to a tone poem that Beethoven ever wrote.

We all have read how he loved to walk in the woods and the fields and this symphony reflects the gentleness of the setting.

The first movement “Awakening of the Cheerful Feelings on Arrival in the Countryside” forms the first movement. His second movement “Scene by the Brook” opened up the countryside. This led to the third movement “Merry Gathering of Country Folk” that are sent inside by a “Thunder Storm” that forms the Fourth Movement, followed by the unforgettable fifth movement titled “Shepherd’s Song, Cheerful and Thankful Feelings After the Storm.”

I was so proud of our symphony. The different moods called for were ably performed. From the bird calls of the second movement to the storm it was a thrilling experience.

The overall impression I got was that our symphony now has the rapport between the parts, the attention to small details within the parts that leads to the same precision you would expect from a string or wind ensemble. This is remarkable considering the size of our orchestra.

I repeat: It was a healing program of wonderful music played at a most important time in our lives.

Odessa, TX

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