APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – The conductor emotionally, artistically, physically and intellectually attached to a work. That is the compelling takeaway from Saturday night’s season-opening concert of the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra.

The event was graced with other colorful music, but the final work on the program gripped because of its rejuvenated meanings on the world stage.

Conductor Kevin F.E. Sütterlin connected dots with his introduction.

He noted that Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Fifth Symphony” was originally scheduled two seasons ago, basically as an impressive piece of music. As simple as that.

The COVID-19 pandemic twice put the program aside.

Now, with Russia vs. Ukraine, the work reflects “a very real reality,” Kevin F.E. Sütterlin told the audience.

In the middle of last century, Dmitri Shostakovich had artistically expressed his beliefs through wordless music that dissected the pall of the Soviet regime.

Today, Kevin F.E. Sütterlin said, “it strikes me with great terror how relevant the piece is.”

Thus, the musicians and audience were pumped for action.

Seventy-eight players on the stage of Thrivent Financial Hall of Fox Cities Performing Arts Center lit into the nuances and boldness and bravado of the work.

The symphony is coy at times, with gentle and serene auras cloaking ominous tones. It is rambunctious at other times, flaring with martial bombast – grand and self-importantly jaunty.

The orchestra was clearly up for this performance, with so many parts falling into place time and again. At the center was Kevin F.E. Sütterlin, his silken top flowing like red water with his constant gestures here, there and everywhere to add visual pop.

Thus, the concert ended with a standing ovation and a call back in which Kevin F.E. Sütterlin enthusiastically recognized every section of the orchestra, starting with flute player Linda Nielsen Korducki in the center.

The concert opened with everyone standing for “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a tradition among American orchestras for starting a season.

A fanfare by Nancy Galbraith then led to life-giving energy – scurrying, happy, sunny sounds blended with moments of sweet calm.

Reena Esmail’s music next used the orchestra’s language to speak in the voice of India in symphonic ways – Western instruments in haunting, beautiful, mysterious, rhythmic, consoling sounds.

A major section of the concert was an uncommon visit to a tuba-strings concerto starring Martin “Marty” Erickson from the ranks of the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra. This section came with two stories.

One. The concerto by Arild Plau is in three movements, like a triptych in painting. One image could be an elephant in a wilderness. On a more esoteric level, it could be of two trains of thought in conversation or sharing experiences from differing perspectives. Listening to music allows for such wanderings of the mind.

At any rate, there was much give-and-take along with sharing between the strings and Marty Erickson’s adeptly played tuba. The two parts seemed to enjoy one another, tossing ideas on an elevated plane.

Marty Erikson’s performance said, “This is how you play tuba, seriously.”

Two. In this part – This is how you play tuba, for fun – affable Marty Erickson in performance first noodled around on his instrument before settling into a super-playful “I Got Rhythm” with improvisation galore.

The story, though, was that of the instrument, as told by Marty Erickson. For a Christmas when he was age 10, the same tuba arrived in a mysterious massive box filled with instruments for family members. His gift was the tuba, which came second hand by way of a police band. Marty Erickson played the tuba as a boy and a bit beyond before setting it aside for 40 years or so. Eventually, he cleaned up the tuba and played it again – it still sounding swell. Saturday may have been its brightest shining moment: Marty Erickson performing in front of an adoring audience and “his” admiring orchestra made up of musicians who stomped their feet to call him back and robustly laughed at his jokes in his comical encore.

Leaving the stage and in a wing, the tubist made a point to give the conductor a bear hug.

***

Program: “Opening Night”

Music director and conductor: Kevin F.E. Sütterlin

Part I

+ “The Star-Spangled Banner”

+ “A Festive Violet Pulse” by Nancy Galbraith

+ “Testament” from “Vishwas” by Reena Esmail

+ “Concerto for Tuba and Strings” by Arild Plau, featuring Marty Erickson, tuba

   Prolog

   Canzone

   Finale  

Part II

+ “Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Opus 47” by Dmitri Shostakovich

   Moderato – Allegro non troppo

   Allegretto

   Largo

   Allegro non troppo

***

Musicians

– Violin: Yuliya Smead (concertmaster) Justyna Lutow-Resch (associate concertmaster), Audrey Nowak (assistant concertmaster), Greg Austin, Bianca Balderama, Laura Burns, Catherine Bush, Jennifer Coopman, Graham Emberton, Graham Emberton, Taylor Giorgio, Erik Leveille, Alicia Mose

– Violin II: Danielle Simandl (principal), Angelica D’Costa (assistant principal), Luis Fernandez, Melissa Gurholt, Travis Hetland, Dorothy Hollenbach, Sarah Koenigs, Kara McCanna, Lori Murphy, Amir Rosenbaum, Marvin Suson, Shoua Xiong

– Viola: Barbara Beechey (principal), Renata Hornik (assistant principal), Corrina Albright, Jane Bradshaw Finch, Katy Byrd, Emma Cifrino, Blakeley Menghini, Ann Stephan

– Cello: Laura Kenney Henckel (principal), Charles Stephan (assistant principal), Emily Gruselle, Timmothy Hammond, Jonathan Hodges, Nancy Kaphaem, David Veum, Heather Watney

– Bass: Susan Sullivan (principal), Emmett Jackson (assistant principal), Ann Boeckman, Scott Breyer, Ronna Swift, Mark Urness

– Flute: Linda Nielsen Korducki (principal), Beth Kinzel, Suzanne Bunker Jordheim, flute/piccolo

– Oboe: Jennifer Hodges Bryan (principal), Leslie Outland Michelic

– English horn/oboe: Leslie Outland Michelic

– Clarinet: Chris Zello (principal), David Bell, Orlando Pimental

– Bassoon: Libby Garrett (principal), Susan Lawrence McDardell

– Horn: Bruce Atwell (principal), Andrew Parks (assistant principal), Keith Powell, Richard Tremarello, Katherine Ritter

– Trumpet: Michael Henckel (principal), Rand Skelton, Justin Olson

– Trombone: Timothy Albright (principal), Roy Fine, Matt Bragstad

– Tuba: Zachariah Dietenberger

– Timpani: Paul Ristau

– Percussion: Jim Robl (principal), Scott Elford, Marisol Kuborn, Terry Smirl

– Piano/harpsichord: Sarah Keifer

– Harp: Rebecca Royce, Erin Freund

– Tabla: Sutanu Sur

***

NEXT: “Mahler 5!” Oct. 29.

THE VENUE: Thrivent Financial Hall is the main theater of Fox Cities Performing Arts Center at 400 W. College Avenue in downtown Appleton. The capacity is 2,072. The seating area is in the shape of a horse shoe, with three balconies following the shape. The stage is 60 feet across and 40 feet high. The décor features Veneciano plaster walls with dark-stained cherry wood. In the oval dome ceiling is a 65-foot-long chandelier that is reminiscent of the Art Deco era. The design includes ruby inserts in the opaque cream-colored glass. Flowing along the walls up to the chandelier are parallel metal pipes as if of a musical instrument. Flat walls in the front third of the hall are salmon colored, while red pleated theatrical curtains dominate the rest of the side walls. The white acoustic wing over the stage looks like the underside of a sci-fi spacecraft. The lobby area consists of lots of geometrics, glass and, on the ground level, a feeling of openness and spaciousness. The exterior of the gray building features gentle curves. A large glass skylight is reminiscent of a human eye.

THE NAME: Thrivent Financial has roots in a life insurance company that was chartered in 1902 as Aid Association for Lutherans, based in Appleton. The corporate name has been Thrivent since 2002.