‘Roman Holiday’ Finds Bremerton Symphony in Fine Form

Here’s the review posted at kitsapsun.com/entertainment from the March 21 performance by the Bremerton Symphony:

I’ve not been in the habit of reviewing concerts or other events of a “one-off” nature — something that happens only once, and doesn’t afford another opportunity to be taken in, no matter how strongly I might endorse it.
However, the March 21 “Solostimmen” program was my first chance to see the Bremerton Symphony perform since the removal of music director Elizabeth Stoyanovich in January. So it bears a little rehash.
I passed on the Symphony’s February program — not because I didn’t want to go, but because I was floored by a case of the Crud (that actually should be spelled with a capital CRUD), and I didn’t think anyone would appreciate me showing up in that condition, even if I had been able to navigate my fevered self there.
It won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s followed the Symphony with any interest, but it’s still a great joy and a great relief to be able to relate:
The Symphony continues to be the usual great night out at the Bremerton Performing Arts Center.
In the case of the evening in question, that’s due in large part to the appearance by cello wunderkind Joshua Roman, whose performance of Tchaikovsky’s “Variations on a Rococo Theme” sounded rich and passionate, even though it looked effortless. It’ll be one of the highlights of my year to be able to say that I saw him play at all, let alone here, with our hometown heroes. If he’s not a one-of-a-kind talent, he’s as close as many of us are liable to see in our lifetimes, at least within a mighty stone’s throw of our own front porches.
But Roman’s presence was just part of the fun. The solid backing he received from guest conductor Alan Futterman and a cast of our local volunteers crowding the stage added tremendously. And when the Symphony returned apres intermission and sans Roman for a rock-solid run through Shostakovich’s wickedly, mischieviously difficult Ninth Symphony, eyebrows raised and smiles widened even farther.
I have to admit I was a little worried after the opening piece on the program, the second of J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg concerti, which is scored for and was performed by a chamber-sized, Baroque-style unit, fronted by a quartet of soloists — Concertmaster Blanche Wynne, principal flute Anna Schroeder, principal oboe Amy Duerr-Day and principal trumpet Dean Wagner.
While the solo parts were performed anywhere from bravely to brilliantly (particular kudos to Mses. Schroeder and Duerr-Day), I thought the support sounded a bit thin, particularly in the strings. By no means unlistenable, just a bit thin.
Reinforcements arrived — lots of them, the onstage numbers nearly doubling — for the Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, which both were pretty nearly redoubtable. Both afforded plenty more opportunities for Symphony members to show their talents, solo-style, with William Ferman’s clarinet, John Sullivan’s piccolo and Brian Rolette’s bassoon all leaving particularly favorable impressions.
Futterman presided effectively and affably, even taking up the microphone a couple times to revisit portions of his pre-concert chat prior to the Shostakovich. Even with his catechism, its abrupt climax caught many concert-goers by surprise, possibly because its five movements run together into what seems more like three.
Futterman also took time to explain the brief — and, to me at least — unnecessary encore, the finale of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.” I do appreciate the added effort to give the audience a little something extra, but the performance came off rather like the bottom of the ninth inning of a great baseball game. Sure, it’s a great three outs, but most of what made it a great game — and gave that big finish a context — came in the preceding eight and a half innings.
But here I am, bitching about a bonus. That’s just wrong.
Still, what I’ll remember from the March 21 program, aside from the work of the almost insanely gifted Roman, is the Symphony’s performances of the Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations, and the Shostakovich, which showed thorough preparation and wonderful musicianship throughout.
Roman was a splendid visitor for us to be able to welcome, and the Symphony proved themselves completely worthy of his visit.

More later … — MM

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