Ann Arbor Symphony takes listeners on a trip to far-off lands
Dreary March in Ann Arbor is not a bad time for a trip abroad. Anyone looking for a transporting experience in town, though, could have done no better than the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra’s “Scheherazade” program Friday night at the Michigan Theater.
Just as the “Arabian Nights” stories whisked readers off to exotic adventures, so, too, the did orchestra succeed on Friday in placing us elsewhere while we were fixed in our seats: most of all in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Arabian Nights-inspired symphonic suite “Scheherazade,” which gave the program its title; but also in Evan Chambers’ “Crazed for the Flame,” which opened the program; and in the Elgar Cello Concerto, with cellist Amit Peled as soloist. With their decidedly Eastern flavor, “Crazed for the Flame” and “Scheherazade” were an inspired pairing and a terrific frame for the concert.
If the Chambers’ piece was new to the audience—he created it in 2001 for the Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings and then completed a full orchestral version for the U-M Philharmonia Orchestra in 2005—Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” has had more than 100 years of musical life to become familiar. Even if this was your thousand and first hearing of the piece, Friday night’s performance would have seemed fresh.
courtesy of the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra
The Elgar Cello Concerto transports to a less happy place than either of the works that framed it Friday. In 1919, the year of its composition, the world, and England and Elgar, too, were still reeling from World War I. The concerto, autumnal in feeling, bears witness to the war’s emotional toll and to the end of an era.
Peled’s playing, resonant and deep and direct, was eloquent and affecting. Early on, his body language was distracting, but as he settled in, he quieted physically, letting the music speak for him and to us. His encore, simple, direct, and evocative, was a movement from Joachim Stutschewsky’s “Hasidic Suite.”