WSO's Saturday program was salve for the soul

The Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra continued its 35th season Monday in the Kimball Theatre with a program that, for the most part, offered things soothing and pleasant. Save moments in the Brahms Second Symphony, where elements of a more probing sort prevailed, it was an evening short on emotional angst and long on music that was kind hearted and emotionally warming.

Things got underway with Rossini’s Overture to “Il Signor Bruschino.” Rossini was one of the best-ever composers of music that invokes smiles. Although capable of serious sounds, his charms are best known for good-natured sounds of the sort that are universally associated with Bugs Bunny cartoons and commercials. His amusing opera buffa “Il Signor Bruschino” is one of those silly but engaging works with love plots and twists and charades and general all around good fun.

The spirit of the opus is evident in his Overture, which the WSO and director Janna Hymes delivered with spirit and energy. One good Rossini deserves another which came with his “Pas de Six” ballet segment from “William Tell.” When it comes to instant awareness, the trumpet fanfare leading into the Overture to William Tell again brings to mind cartoons, the “Lone Ranger” and Spike Jones. It‘s the most lasting piece of the opera, closely followed by the “Pas de Six.”

Simply candy to the ear, it’s fluffy and giddy in spirit and beautifully offers one of Rossini’s celebrated crescendo moments that take a theme from relative calm and works it up into a frenzied and exciting climax. Like the opening Rossini, it was done with spirit.

Continuing on a happy note was Faure’s “Masques et Bergamasques.” Specifically written as a divertissement for the theatre, Faure, in the best tradition of composers who seldom tossed away a good measure, repurposed some of his music for this piece. Whether the title was familiar or not, from its very first measures, no doubt, there was epiphany that “Masques,” or at least portions of it, were well known to all who listen to classical radio.

From the lively opening “Ouverture” through the gentle “Menuet” to the jaunty “Gavotte” and the dreamy, harmonically inviting closing “Pastorale,” it was a lyrical, light and lovely work that was given just that kind of treatment.

Far from light and airy but certainly emotionally pleasing was the Brahms which closed the affair.

It too, like all that preceded it, is a generally bright and sunny work, though not without passing moments of darker feelings. Lovely horn lines in the Allegro blend with woodwinds to usher in Brahms’s always-welcomed lush lyricism. From there the WSO embraced the work and its varied emotions.

The broad, sweeping melodies of the first movement gave way to the more insightful and momentarily turbulent Adagio. In contrast was the sweetly crafted Allegretto and its flurry of fluttering notes and the closing Allegro’s sweeping scope and bold, heroic finale.

Expectedly clean, articulate and consolidated playing was heard throughout a program that, at the director’s hand, caught the spirit and substance of each work and composer’s intent. The fare, while programmed long ago, turned out to be a salve for the emotional upheaval of the past few days.

Appropriately, Hymes took time to address the horrid happenings and express the healing part music can play in helping bring people together. She addressed the hopeful emotional safety felt within the concert hall with musicians and audience alike drawn together by understanding and shared expressions of care. Her comments were spot on and the emotional foundation of the fine evening of music.

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

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