Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Review: Richmond Symphony

Steven Smith conducting
Oct. 1, Richmond CenterStage

To launch this season’s chamber-orchestra concerts, Richmond Symphony Music Director Steven Smith pairs two works from 18th-century classicism, Mozart’s Symphony No. 36 in C major (“Linz”) and the Overture Domenico Cimarosa’s opera “Il matrimonio segreto” (“The Secret Marriage”), with two prime examples of 20th-century neoclassicism, Stravinsky’s Concerto in E flat major (“Dumbarton Oaks”) and the “Trittico botticelliano” (“Botticelli Triptych”) of Respighi.

At an invitational reception and performance, I heard a generous sampling of the program, which will be reprised in several guises in coming days.

As Smith observed, Cimarosa’s overture is closely related in style and content to music of Mozart, his contemporary; several elements of the overture, in fact, sound to have been “borrowed” from Mozart’s operas. Both the overture and symphony received stylish, propulsive performances, enhanced by finely detailed string and wind playing.

Stravinsky’s debts to old classical style are audible in “Dumbarton Oaks,” but the piece is unmistakably modern in its harmonic language, even more so in its rhythms. Played by a small string and wind contingent, its transparent scoring and rhythmic language, clearly indebted to swing-era jazz, were especially evident, and quite infectious.

“Trittico botticelliano” is arguably Respighi’s most brilliant small-scaled orchestration, with enchanting nature effects and unusually (for this composer) pastel-shaded colorations. Smith and the orchestra gave a technically impressive and affectionate account of the score.

The Richmond Symphony will play excerpts of these works in the first Rush Hour Concert of the season, 6:30 p.m. Oct. 2 in the Gottwald Playhouse of Richmond CenterStage, Sixth and Grace streets; and will perform the program in full in the Metro Collection season-opener, 3 p.m. Oct. 5 in Blackwell Auditorium of Randolph-Macon College, 205 Henry St. in Ashland. Tickets: $20. Details: (800) 514-3849 (ETIX);