Last night’s performance of the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra was the final concert of the 2014-2015 season. Giori Schmidt’s captivated us with his virtuoso rendition of Concerto No. 1 in G minor for Violin & Orchestra, Opus 26 by Max Bruch. During the first movement the soloist’s grimacing facial expressions conveyed a stern fatalism. The third movement, however, brought forth a lighter, happy countenance on both conductor Tito Muñoz and soloist. Our seats in the sixth row allowed us to observe the intricate fingering of his violin.

The concert began with Finding Rothko by Adam Schoenberg which included a screen centered above he orchestra showing four paintings corresponding to each movement. According to the program notes, “The artworks are simply a pretext, an inspiration” for the composer. Although I appreciated the multimedia presentation, it was difficult for me to see the connection with the choice of paintings and their color. The first painting, Orange, from the Guggenheim Museum in New York, “contains,” according to the program notes, “uneven horizontal stripes of violet, black and yellow on white and red.” It was interesting to learn from Tito Muñoz that Adam Schoenberg is one of his friends and that he is a graduate from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 2002.

The concert concluded with a masterful presentation of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D Major. The first movement begins with two notes that later morph into a bridcall. The second movement has the rhythm of an Austrian folk song. The third movement features a distinctive solo by a double bass accompanied by the timpani. The fourth movement ties together the themes from the earlier movements in a gentle, comforting fashion only to be resolved with a stormy but triumphantly loud reprise of the opening fanfare. What a great evening of music!

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