'Great Symphony' a great achievement for WSO

The Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra continued its now-expected offering of high quality performance in the "Great Symphony" program at the Kimball Theatre Thursday.

The program offered works that largely tend to be mainstays of concert and pops programs and standard fare for classical radio stations. While the programming of the first portion wasn't exactly groundbreaking, it was delivered with great care, precision and interpretative sensitivity.

Certainly with the cooler temperatures now a part of life, the sunny sounds of the Delius "On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring" was a pleasant hearing. There's an idyllic lushness to the lines that provide a dreamy landscape, the essence of which was perfectly captured by Janna Hymes and orchestra. Similarly did the orchestra embrace the flowing, lyrical sentiments of the Faure "Pavane."

On the more spirited side was Prokofiev's popular Classical Symphony. A classic representative of the neoclassical style, the Prokofiev is a charming work of pure delight, with a quirky sense of humor, rhythmic interest, and clean, economic lines. There's nothing to do but enjoy it, which is what the audience did with this concise and articulate rendering.

The evening's major work and the titular heading for this program was Schubert's Symphony in C Major. Although the work is a popular favorite on stages and stations, it was a first for WSO and what a playing it got. Known as the "Great Symphony," it was Schubert's last major symphony. It is a work of expansive, grand nature both in line and length (running close to an hour).

The romanticism is evident from the opening, heraldic horn call through the stately and steady lines of the Andante to the light and airy Scherzo. As for the rollicking conclusion, it was a powerhouse performance especially for the strings whose handling of those fast moving, highly intricate triple figures seemed not to faze them.

Unquestionably, this was a first rate performance of a very challenging work that I cannot imagine being played with more spirit, finesse, drama and precision as heard here. The audience was appropriately wowed by the moment, offering a well-deserved spontaneous standing ovation with shouts of approval to boot. A great performance of the "Great Symphony," this was a highpoint of accomplishment for the WSO and Hymes.

Shulson, a Williamsburg resident, has been covering the arts for over 40 years. He makes a guest appearance in Margaret Truman's "Murder at the Opera."

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