Saturday’s Waco Symphony Orchestra offers symphony players the opportunity to take the spotlight normally held by guest artists with a program highlighting the symphony’s major sections.
The concert, whose second half features the annual presentation of the Symphony Belles and Brass, offers works that focus on the symphony’s strings, woodwind, brass and percussion sections: Samuel Barber’s “Adagio For Strings,” Paul Hindemith’s Concerto for Woodwinds, Harp and Orchestra,” Dan McCarthy’s “American Dance Music” and Leonard Bernstein’s “Fancy Free: Three Dance Variations.”
WSO Music Director Stephen Heyde said the varied program ranges from the familiar, in the concert opening “Adagio” that often appears in film scores, to the new, McCarthy’s commissioned work for the brass ensemble Rhythm and Brass.
“(Barber’s ‘Adagio’) is considered an orchestral warhorse for a reason. It’s so beautiful and full of deep emotional content,” he said.
The Hindemith concerto features WSO woodwind principals Charlotte Daniel on flute, Euridice Alvarez on oboe, Jun Qian on clarinet and Ann Shoemaker on bassoon plus harpist Karen Thomas. Hindemith’s writing is precise and well-constructed, Heyde said, reminiscent of an earlier classical master, Johann Sebastian Bach. “It’s really 20th century Bach: Everything is so in its place and well-crafted,” he said.
Hindemith’s use of harp enabled the featured instruments to stand out even more in solo passages and also includes a musical joke worked into the piece. Knowing that his concerto would debut on his 25th wedding anniversary and attended by him and his wife, the German composer snuck in a musical reference to Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” into the final movement, Heyde said.
WSO brass players Wiff Rudd and Mark Schubert on trumpet, Jeffrey Powers on horn, Brent Phillips on trombone and Kent Eshelman on tuba join percussionist Edward Taylor for the McCarthy piece, written for Rhythm and Brass, with which Rudd had played. The work, in five short movements, runs through a variety of dance-inspired rhythms: square dance, Latin, jazz, swing and rock.
The whole orchestra caps the concert’s first half with Bernstein’s three-part “Fancy Free,” a 1944 ballet about sailors on shore leave that was an early collaboration between the New York composer and choreographer Jerome Robbins. The work later led to the better-known “On the Town.”