It was a thrill to attend a live concert and hear Symphony Tacoma on Saturday, February 26, 2022, in Tacoma's historic Pantages Theater. In the few times I have attended live events in the last six months, there is an energy and longing in attendees to be a part of a shared experience. Symphony Tacoma fills this need in the South Sound.
Saturday’s program, Classical Influences from Bohemia, featured well known works by Smetana and Mahler, and also the contemporary Concerto for Violin and Orchestra by David Ludwig. The common theme for the selections was in their Eastern European cultural influences—with melodies, rhythms and stories.
The opening work in the performance was Smetana’s The Moldau (from Ma Vlast), a beloved, popular concert piece. This programmatic music follows the journey of the Czech Republic’s Moldau River from its beginnings as melting snow in the mountains, past hunters in the forest, alongside a village with a wedding, into the night accompanying water nymphs, through violent rapids, and finally beside the majestic city of Prague. In the opening, twinkling flute sounds describe small mountain creeks, and eventually these fingers of water combine with added instrumental textures and establish the main theme of the Moldau River.
Smetana’s Moldau is a fantastic story in sound, and Symphony Tacoma held the full attention of the listeners. The woodwind section was nimble and impressive with its cohesive musicianship. Conductor Sarah Ioannides craftily led the orchestra through the river’s journey and navigated tricky transitions with grace. This music was magical.
The most engaging piece of the night was David Ludwig’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra. The concerto was composed for his spouse, Bella Hristova who was also the evening’s soloist. This composition strikes a personal note for Ludwig, not just that the married couple collaborated in the performance, but that the music documents some of Ludwig’s feelings, values and emotions around marriage.
The final work of the concert was Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D Major. Nicknamed The Titan, this massive work has complex and juxtaposed emotions, exposed solos, sudden transitions and epic proportions.
Symphony Tacoma musicians stepped up to Mahler’s music with precision and confidence. In movement one, distant offstage trumpet fanfares synchronized wonderfully. The final movement shifted from loss and longing to triumph and celebration. Ioannides’ pacing of phrase and tempo made the symphony come alive. The audience burst out in a standing ovation as the final chord rang into the theater.
This article is courtesy of John Falskow, PH.D. Symphony Tacoma is celebrating 75 years. In addition to the return of live programs, virtual programs are also available. Learn more here.