January 13, 2013
The Wichita Symphony Orchestra gave a breathtaking performance of a dazzling array of works Saturday evening, under the direction of guest conductor Christopher Wilkins in the Century II Concert Hall.
The program began with Gioacchino Rossini’s Overture to The Italian Girl in Algiers. The orchestra performed with a sinuous energy that brought Rossini’s notes to life. From Andrea Banke’s expressive oboe solos to Chastity Pawloski’s luminous piccolo sound, the wind section’s playing was ebullient, and the strings rollicked through this lively piece.
The Rossini provided a perfect prelude to internationally acclaimed guitarist Elliot Fisk’s performance. Fisk’s presentation was at once eloquent and lively; the man is clearly in bliss as he plays. For his performance of Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto in D Major for Guitar and Orchestra, the orchestral forces were trimmed to twenty, making for a beautifully intimate texture. Orchestra and soloist created a glowing quality of sound.
The rest of the orchestra returned to the stage to join Fisk in performing Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. There was just a little rhythmic instability in the orchestra in the first movement, and some minor tuning issues, but nothing to derail the spirit of the piece. Camille Burrow projected passion in her solo playing, and in the second movement Catie Mitchell’s rendering of the iconic English Horn solo was poignantly beautiful.
Fisk performed two encores. The first, Recuerdos de la Alhambra by Franciso Tarrega, he presented as testimony to the potential of beauty derived from the alchemy of cultures. The second, the Prelude from Bach’s Partita in E major, gave listeners a few more minutes to bask in the aura of uninhibited genius.
Following intermission, the orchestra gave an excellent, high-spirited performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s 4th Symphony, the “Italian.” There were a few isolated brushes with tuning, but as a whole the playing was at a very high level. From top to bottom, the strings played with vigorous precision and were matched by uniformly fine playing by the brass and winds. Timpanist Gerald Scholl’s playing was impeccable and principal clarinetist Sarunas Jankauskas also played with notable precision and beauty. As soloist Elliot Fisk observed in his encore comments, The Wichita Symphony Orchestra is a high caliber ensemble, deserving of wide community support.