Jordan Bisch sang Bass and the Colorado Symphony Chorus, under the direction of Duain Wolfe, joined the Colorado Symphony for a powerful program of the Russian Masters
от силы в силу means from Strength to Strength
Russian music has a power all its own. With Alexander Polianichko at the podium the Colorado Symphony performed a solid concert of Russian music moving from strength to strength. As the program progressed the music and the performances kept improving.
The evening began with the "Procession of the Nobles" from Mlada by Rimsky-Korsakov. This piece features the brass and the amazing Colorado Symphony brass section were up for the challenge. Some of the rapid fanfare leaps were boldly present in the music and really set the stage for a night of immensely powerful music.
Jordan Bisch was featured as the bass soloist for Aleko's Cavatina from Aleko by Rachmaninoff. The orchestra started at a whisper to preface the first note by Mr Bisch which wasn't much louder, but the force in his voice rumbled the rafters - and he went up from there. Jordan Bisch has a voice that portrays intense emotion and overwhelming strength. The only disappointment in the performance was the lack of a standing ovation afterwards. Aleko's Cavatina is a soft piece, fraught with passion, not rousing music like the opening "Procession", but Mr. Bisch's performance deserved more from the audience.
The rest of the first half of the program was occupied by Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. Much of this music is extremely familiar, yet it was nice to hear the Colorado Symphony bring it to life without the dancers, so the music can take the forefront. Highlights were when soloists from the Colorado Symphony Musicians were featured. Courtney Hershey Bress' harp is often heard in the orchestra, but tonight we were treated to an extensive solo. Yumi Hwang-Williams joined her for a lovely, melodic duet, followed by a solo by Silver Ainomäe on the Cello. Then the music turned haunting with a classic theme presented by Peter Cooper on the oboe. Again, the brass were brought in for the climax bringing the audience to their feet. Obviously the crowd loved the music and adores the musicians - there were plenty of whoops and hollers as each of the soloists were given their own bow.
After intermission we were treated to Borodin's flourid and powerful "Polovtsian Dances" from Prince Igor. Alexander Polianichko took the piece faster than I've heard it done before making the breath-taking solos by the Bil Jackson on the Clarinet and Brook Ellen Shoenwald on the flute even more amazing. Yet, at no point did the music feel out of control --quite the opposite. Through every twist and turn of the music there wasn't a moment to breathe and yet no moment to be anything but riveted to the stage.
The Coronation Scene from Boris Godonov by Mussorgsky was up next featuring both soloist Jordan Bisch and the Colorado Symphony Chorus. Jordan commanded the role and the stage with his voice, while Maestro Polianichko kept the piece in balance. It was obvious the chorus and the musicians were having a blast performing with him and the music carried that enthusiasm through Boettcher Hall.
The evening came to a close with the ever popular 1812, Overture complete with canon sounds and chorus. Often the piece is performed without the chorus. The emotions run high with the music anyway with the bold brass at the end, but to start with just a hint of strings beneath the prayer-like voices really pushed the emotional wave of the evening over the top. The music continued to build with the La Marseillaise sneaking in to represent the French but ending with the hymn God Preserve Thy People followed by God Save the Tsar! to end in triumph.
Alexander Polianichko is not a flashy conductor. He performs his task without fancy dance steps or body contortions. Yet the "love-fest" that began with the chorus and conductor on Tuesday night's rehearsal obviously wasn't a fluke. Russian music is powerful and demanding. Maestro Polianichko and the Colorado Symphony and Chorus met it head on demonstrating the strength of both the music and the musicians.