Phoenix Symphony’s performance, Oct. 13, at the Scottsdale Center reminds us of two things.
First, what a great tradition it has been for orchestras to occasionally find a way to spotlight their outstanding chair players by letting them shine in a concerto.
The Symphony’s first-chair flutist, Viviana Cumplido, played the Reinecke Flute Concerto with grace and elegance.
Carl Reinecke is a largely forgotten composer. He was born while Beethoven and Schubert were at the height of their powers, and he didn’t die until after Igor Stravinsky had written his first blockbuster score.
His music is largely conservative, but you could hear the influence of early Richard Strauss in the sometimes lush orchestration in the first movement.
Reinecke was no barn burner, but his music is ingratiating and in the final movement, he even creates a notable imitation of a memorable tune.
Cumplido was excellent, and did for the concerto exactly what it calls for.
The second thing we come away with is just how good the Phoenix Symphony has become.
After intermission, they played the Tchaikovsky Fourth Symphony and, in the proverbial expression, they blew the roof off the dump.
In the past, critics often felt it necessary to hedge their reviews, acknowledging the fact that the orchestra is a provincial band in a cultural backwater, but how lucky we were that they were as good as they were.
We simply don’t have to make allowances anymore. They can do anything a conductor asks, including whispered pianos, and whipping prestissimos.
They may not be the Berlin or Vienna phils, but I’ve heard the New York Philharmonic when they didn’t play as well as the Phoenix Symphony can now do.
Guest conductor Christian Knapp didn’t interpret the score so much as mold it. He wasn’t making any statements with the music, but he kept the tempos flexible, the balance equable and the climaxes exciting.
The symphony has become what it long promised to be: world class. Let’s take it out and see what it can do.
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