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Posted on Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 1:54 a.m.

A2SO's "Masterworks" earned its standing ovations

By Roger LeLievre

From beginning to end, the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra’s “Masterworks” concert Saturday night at the Michigan Theater was a stunner. That two local music heroes—a composer and a soloist—had key roles in the performance made its success all the sweeter.

First on the program was acclaimed University of Michigan composer Michael Daugherty’s “Oh, Lois!,” part of his Superman-inspired “Metropolis Symphony.” Daugherty spoke briefly about the work, and also demonstrated two percussion instruments—flexatone (sounding somewhat like a New Year’s Eve noisemaker) and whip (two wooden boards meant to slap together)—that help give the piece its melodramatic flair. In this work, the percussion invokes the feeling of impending doom for our heroine and the strings (yes, faster than a speeding bullet) that assure Lois that the Man of Steel will again save the day. What a fun way to start the show.

Next on the program was Saint-Saens’ Violin Concerto No. 3, with A2SO concertmaster and U-M faculty member Aaron Berofsky as soloist. Every time I hear Berofsky, I’m struck by the warmth of his playing and the depth of emotion he brings to each performance. The lyrical second movement, in particular, had me hanging on every note. The standing ovation that followed was well deserved.

The night’s entertainment ended on another high note, with an exceptional performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. The French horn in the second movement, the waltz feel of the third, and the crashing of the finale are all hallmarks of this work, and nowhere did the A2SO disappoint. I felt I was hearing musical elements I’d never heard before, and the horns and violins in particular were spot on. Another standing O followed.

If the music weren’t enough reason to celebrate, the concert as came with an announcement: Music Director Arie Lipsky’s contract with the symphony has been renewed for another five years. Judging by the applause, the audience approved wholeheartedly of that as well.