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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Orchestra closes online season with grace in Sheboygan

Critic At Large

Sheboygan Symphony Orchestra

Sheboygan Symphony Orchestra musicians in action during “Nonet” section May 15, 2021. (Warren Gerds screenshot)

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (WFRV) – The determined Sheboygan Symphony Orchestra closed its 102nd season Saturday night with a handsome online presentation recorded in the Weill Center for the Performing Arts.

Josh Hernday, executive director, called attention to 14 months of challenge caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among performing arts organizations in the region, the Sheboygan Symphony visibly kept the classical music candle lighted with online concerts.

The full orchestra did not play at one time, but sections did individually. The result was an offering of music not normally heard in a “regular” orchestral concert. Some concerts included work by composers seldom heard in concert in the region, which again was the case Saturday night.

Saturday’s concert was guest conducted surely by Oriol Sans of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The musicians performed finely – and probably eager for the opportunity.

A work in progress – notes on a computer during a concert. (Warren Gerds screenshot)

This and that:

+ The sound carries well in the Weill hall, though the absence of audience is noticeable in an atmosphere of emptiness. Bodies tend to soften notes.

+ Varied camera angles were used.

+ The conductor and musicians wore masks, except for the winds.

+ Writing about music without being an academic or a musician is a challenge no one with sense would attempt. I always write notes of my interpretations – whatever the music causes to float through my head – during concerts. It’s easier with a computer when listening at home.

+ The way the concert was shaped, the organization left its trying season on comforting notes of one of Aaron Copland’s most appreciated works.


Program: “Spring,” guest conductor Oriol Sans


Musicians: Concertmaster – Paul Sekulski; associate concertmaster – Jane Van Maarne; violin II – Krista Hettinger (principal), Hannah Rice; viola – Christina Krause (co-principal), Molly Lieberman (co-principal); cello – Lindsay Patterson (principal), Aaron Zauner; bass – Zack Betz (co-principal), John Smoody (co-principal); flute – Sarah Bergman (principal); oboe – Joshua Guarisco (principal); clarinet – Jill Hanes (principal); bassoon – Brian Ellingboe (principal); horn – Annette Eis (principal); piano – Emile Blascyk; harp – not listed.

+ “Nonet in E-flat major, Opus. 38” (1849) – Louise Farrenc.
Adagio-Allegro. Regal opening in a leisurely pace. Graceful blend. Idyllic. A pretty aural picture. Violin featured with a genteel passage.

Andante con variazione. Aura of a measured dance at a ball of a noble family, with everyone dressed to the nines. Precise steps. A pleasurable event.

Scherzo vivace. Sunny and sprightly, with a bit of a charge from the brass. Aura of “to the hunt!” before slipping into rhythmed finesse.

Adagio-Allegro. Grandness in opening. Vigor steps in, with a trading of color between the instruments. Bright and invigorating warmth.

Questions: Do notes know whether they were written by a male or female? Can the ear tell?

+ “Adagio molto for String Quartet and Harp” (1863-64) – Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky.

No visible conductor. Somber start in quartet of strings. Funereal. Harp adds light touches, as if drops of rain of relief. Returns to the strings, pensively, as if “It’s so sad that old Igor has died.”

+ “Appalachian Spring Suite” (1944) – Aaron Copland.

Thirteen musicians. Gentle flow of gossamer notes. Embracing. Graceful, physically poetic dances can be imagined. A rush of energy charged by the violins at the start, then joined in a joyful radiance. Mellows and slides into a comfort zone. Soft deft notes lead into blossoming vigor. Shifts to grandness, bustling, muscularity, intensity, warmth, repose, returning to a bright aura of folk dance of beauty, zest, grace and glory, followed by a long, comforting release.

Next season

As part of the concert, the four finalists for the post of music director were announced. Each briefly appeared in a video.

The plan for the coming season:

Aug. 14: Fundraising concert.

Oct. 9: Finalist: Rebecca Smithorn.

Nov. 13: Finalist: Isaac Selya.

Dec. 11: “Sounds of the Season.”

March 12: Finalist: Ernesto Estigarribia.

May 7: Finalist: Sergey Bogza.

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