By Robert Bruce Smith
TUPELO – Music of Berlioz, Bruch, Beethoven – plus the stellar notes of violinist Natasha Korsakova – lent a sense of grand musical adventure to the Tupelo Symphony Orchestra’s 2010-11 season debut on Saturday night.
Also premiering was the renovated Link Centre Concert Hall itself, with its updated seating, carpeting, stage lighting, fresh paint job, and fanciful new overhead light fixtures.
Representing the Carpenter Co., which manufactures foam products locally, Al Servati accepted a plaque from Doyce Deas, recognizing his organization’s outstanding multiyear support of the Link Centre and Tupelo Symphony.
TSO music director Steven Byess – the fourth musical ‘B’! – kicked off Saturday’s performance with a stirring rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” followed by Hector Berlioz’ explosively colorful “Roman Carnival Overture.” But the real fireworks began to pop when violinist Natasha Korsakova appeared onstage to solo in Max Bruch’s enchanting Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor.
What an artist! Korsakova, it seems, has everything: intense musicality, stunning beauty, electric charisma, a fabulous 19th-century Tressenda violin, plus aristocratic descent from the great 19th-century Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
And what a concerto! Completed in its present form in 1867, the G Minor was an immediate hit, but contains technical difficulties still capable of daunting any violinist brave or foolish enough to attempt it. Korsakova tossed off these intricate, unruly passages with a blend of mystical meditation and fiery passion that instantly confirmed her reputation as one of Russia’s supremely great contemporary violinists.
The third movement, with its scintillating double stops and ever-accelerating conclusion, can create the kind of musical wonder that leaves an audience breathless with amazement and delight. So it was with Korsakova and the TSO.
In a moving introduction to the evening’s grand finale – Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor – Byess recounted some of the history and lore surrounding this legendary masterpiece.
One of the most familiar yet eternally noble works in the classical repertoire, the four movements of “Beethoven’s Fifth” provided a suitably triumphant ending for the Tupelo Symphony’s first 2010-11 performance.
From his perch in musical Valhalla, the TSO’s founder, Tupelo attorney Wade Lagrone, must have smiled benignly to know the orchestra he so bravely launched 39 years ago is still producing fresh seasons of noble music for these troubled times. No doubt Wade’s wife, who was in the audience, must have been deeply gratified as well.