The Williamsburg Symphonia provided perfect relief from the nonstop coverage and awareness of the senseless terrorist attacks in Paris last weekend and before that Beirut, the bombing of a Soviet aircraft, the threat of an ISIS attack on Washington, D.C. and global border unrest.Its program Monday in the Kimball Theatre, to alter the oft-quoted phrase, proved that music does have the charms to soothe the soul and all that bothers us.
The performance was a gem of diamond-like quality: sculptured, polished, warm and glowing.It was about as perfect as playing gets, with nary a flaw in sight or hearing.
That's not to say the horrific acts in Paris were out of mind.Prior to presenting Faure's Orchestral Suite: Incidental Music to "Pelleas et Melisande," music director Janna Hymes thoughtfully explained that the evening's programming of the French work was set about a year ago, with no way of knowing what events would be taking place at this time.She indicated the thematic nature of the poignant work, essentially death and sadness, made it an appropriate tribute to Paris and its citizens and, in fact, all who are suffering under the threat of ISIS and that we should cherish our freedoms and do our best to help make the world a better place.
As anticipated, the Faure, which depicts the tale of the ill-fated love between Pelleas and Melisande, was deeply moving and exquisitely played.While the middle two segments are on the softer side, it is the opening and closing that supply the drama and sadness.Faure's ability to zero in on deep emotions and present them with such clarity results in a beauty that is nearly painful in its rawness.The Symphonia was on top of this and relayed its content and context concisely and caressingly.
The evening opened on a much more upbeat note with Rosetti's Symphony in G Minor, a work not heard all that often in live performance.It was given a clean and concise playing that cashed in on the work's energy and spirit, effectively balancing and blending the composition's darker and lighter moments into a cohesive whole that was wholly enjoyable.
Closing the fare was Haydn's Symphony No. 104 in D Major.Subtitled the "London," it was his last symphonic work.The No. 104 is not just a number, it is the number of symphonies this highly prolific composer wrote.With four extra works often included in the category, his title as "father of the symphony" is more than justified.
The "London" is a joyful piece.It starts off with a prolonged series of big, bold strokes that sound somewhat menacing before bursting into a sunny disposition that never really leaves the work's four movements.A sense of cheerfulness fills the space, allowing appreciation of Haydn's very creative nature.Each movement was inspired with the exact degree of sensitivity to Haydn's design, care taken to shape the delicacy the charm inherent throughout, especially in the second movement with its delightful theme and variation type structure.A buoyant third movement led to a finale of excitement, fast paced playing in the strings and total involvement in the musical magic of this effervescent selection.
The evening's efforts found the Monday night audience responding with unusual vigor which was gratifying and certainly appropriate for the exceptional results offered. For a few hours, Hymes and the Symphonia allowed thoughts of peace and satisfaction to overshadow those of death and destruction. What a gift.
Shulson can be reached at email@example.com.