With a full, thick head of hair, James Judd  is a vigorous, athletic British conductor. Last night’s Phoenix Symphony concert started with the Four Sea Interludes, an orchestral suite by Benjamin Britten reworked from his Peter Grimes opera. The first movement, “Dawn,” begins with the first violins playing the high pitched melody and finishes with the sounds of ominous swelling waves. Church bells ring in the “Sunday Morning” movement. “Moonlight” present a pulsing, brooding sea of sound. The final movement, “Storm,” unleashes the fury of the storm. Judd’s thrusts and feints reminded me of a fencer fighting for his life.

Sean Chen was the featured soloist in Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, Opus 16. The Phoenix Symphony has regularly introduced us to rising young artists. Chen has Bachelor and Master degrees from Julliard and is now studying for an Artist diploma at Yale. Although our seats did not allow us to see Chen’s hands, we had a good view of his face. The lid prop of the Steinway grand covered the mid-section of the conductor. Chen rewarded the enthusiastic audience with a movement that he has transcribed from a Bach Sonata for Violin.

The concert concluded with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551. This, the last and longest of Mozart’s symphonies, is known as “Jupiter.” The final movement takes the four-note theme and develops a complex fugue. As we prepare to visit Vienna, a live performance of Mozart’s music is much more vibrant than simply reading the psychoanalytic biography Mozart: A Life by Maynard Solomon. We were wowed by James Judd and Sean Chen’s performances with the Phoenix Symphony.

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