Last Thursday and Friday at the Woodruff Arts Center’s Symphony Hall, the opportunity came to immerse myself into the beautiful sounds of the Grammy award-winning Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. The ASO moved easily through the 1940’s classical music of Copland, Barber and Bartók to brighten the concert hall with a glorious performance featuring the violin soloist Joshua Bell.
Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring swells at the introduction of each instrument. The Pulitzer Prize-winning ballet suite fills the room. Appalachian Spring primes the audience, and the applause at its conclusion is only outmatched when Joshua Bell walks on stage. The light start of Samuel Barber’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra moves gently letting Bell woo the audience with his Stradivarius. The third movement Presto in moto perpetuo is where the masterful technique of Bell’s solos is spotlighted.
The performance’s intermission comes only after minutes of ovation. When the orchestra returns on stage, their shared smiles and convivial play excite me for the final piece – Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra. The concerto suddenly brightens with a festive mood immediately with the winds and strings making great tones that drive back the darkness from before. In the absolute quiet before the ending, the air seems to stir and the horn opens the finale dramatically. In a brief moment, the orchestra erupts beyond the previous convivial tone to decisive playing as the movement peaks with the trumpet’s commanding presence and continues to its spectacular conclusion.
Conducted by Robert Spano, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performed each piece masterfully. Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra brought forth the joy its composer must have felt to be commissioned again after fleeing Europe and expressed the sorrow of death for the woman for whom it was composed in memoriam. The Copland ballet suite challenged the symphony with eight continuous sections but maintained its voice well into the conclusion. There was never a moment I thought the music was misrepresented. Each piece had moments where the feeling enclosed every person present. Every note made an impression in concert with the compositions.
Spano also forged a steady setting for Joshua Bell’s solos in the Barber concerto cradling the notes upon a fortified principle melody. Although the pieces chosen for the concert were marvelous, I hoped Bell would have been featured more that evening. Bell has been performing since his concert debut at age 14 in 1985. His twenty years have shown him to be a capable performer in any situation and earned him the 2004 Classical Artist of the Year award. In his performance with the ASO, his fantastic solos left the audience wanting, which was clearly evident in the rounds of applause that returned him to the stage three times before intermission.
Stunned by the concert, I cannot highlight how many amazing features of this live performance there truly were. I will, instead, recommend everyone to attend an Atlanta Symphony Orchestra concert in the near future. Listening to an ASO event will brighten any evening. Although Joshua Bell will not be performing again, a John Corigliano percussion concerto will be performing on Nov. 13 and 14 at 8 p.m. and again on Nov. 16 at 3 p.m.