Long Bay Symphony

On Sunday, Jan. 26, symphony goers were treated to a splendid concert by the Long Bay Symphony Orchestra with two works from the 19th century and two from the 20th during its “From Barber to Barber” concert.

The afternoon began with the first “Barber,” part of the title “Overture to the Barber of Seville” by Gioachino Rossini, dating from 1816. Conductor Charles Evans showed the skill of the LBS as he led the orchestra through this familiar and attractive work.

The precision of the familiar melodies over the precise accompaniment was clearly evident in the passages which called for increasing the tempo without any section or soloist falling behind.

And, as program annotator Richard Rodda points out, the “Rossini crescendo” showed why this musical gesture is so effective – especially in these days of uniform loudness with little or no contrast. The changes in loudness and tempo were expertly presented, and, at the conclusion, Evans acknowledged the very effective solo playing from winds and horns.

Rossini’s lively theater piece was followed by the Brahms 3rd Symphony, dating from the mid-1880s. This work is in the traditional four movements, and listeners can hear the influence of composers who preceded Brahms - he has long been known as one of the “three Bs”: Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms.

Each movement has its own character, with the orchestra beautifully projecting its rich, burnished sound. There is nothing high or shrill, and no percussion. There are no theatrical dramatic shifts in mood, but listeners can hear Brahms’s skill with melodies, which are often presented by two or three instruments at once playing them.

Evans and the LBS gave a first rate performance of this 19th century classic. The work ends with a quiet full chord, which the LBS played with beautiful balance and perfectly controlled dynamics, for a peaceful conclusion to this famous work. The audience responded warmly.

The second half of the concert began with the second “Barber,” this time referring to the American composer Samuel Barber, whose “Adagio for Strings” was played. Originally written for string quartet in the 1930s, Barber later arranged it for the full orchestral string section. This powerfully emotional work has been used in a number of settings, including the 1986 movie “Platoon”, about the Vietnam war.

Evans led the LBS strings in a performance of flawless intonation, beautiful tone, and clear, compelling articulation leading to the conclusion, which left the audience immobilized.

The final work of the concert was Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, in C Major, featuring Ko-Eun Yi as soloist. This work, written in 1921, is, as can be seen by its title, in the key of C, but with plenty of dissonances one would expect from the evolving harmonic language of the 20th century.

Evans and the LBS set just the right tempos for the three movements, and one of the most compelling aspects of the performance was the way soloist and orchestra fit together, with no stumbling, rushing or lagging.

Ko-Eun’s splendid technique and sense of sound could be heard continually, whether in passages featuring the piano, or in places where the piano sounded like an extension of, say, the woodwinds, or percussion. The audience responded with applause after the first two movements, and at the end, after the piano’s concluding passages of fast, hammered chords, virtually exploded with enthusiasm.

Evans and Ko-Eun acknowledged the applause and cheers, with the orchestra and soloist taking well deserved bows. This was a wonderful ending to a superb concert. Stay alert for information about upcoming LBS concerts.

William Hamilton taught music for 28 years at Coastal Carolina University. He composed the music for CCU’s “Alma Mater,” wrote incidental music for several plays, and still actively plays jazz with the group U ‘n I.

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