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Heroes Get a Grand Hurrah

04/15/14 • by Sherli Leonard • The Riverside Press-Enterprise

Heroes came in a variety of guises at the Saturday night Redlands Symphony Orchestra season-ending concert titled “Connect with the Heroes.”

From the diminutive 11-year-old, totally polished “Star Spangled Banner” guest conductor, Edward Ansill Meyer, grandson of Redlands resident Bernard Gottlieb, to the monumental “Victory at Sea” selections by Richard Rodgers to the jazzy Leonard Bernstein comment on the feisty soldier on the town to the heart-ripping poignant “Schindler’s List” music by John Williams to the driving “Warsaw Concerto,” the program’s performers and music honored the true heroes who landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy 70 years ago.

The orchestra crammed as many musicians as possible on the Memorial Chapel stage, including seven brass, five horns, and five percussionists, which, as one might expect in that hall, often completely overpowered the strings. No complaints, really, for few orchestras can enjoy the stellar musicianship of principal trumpet David Scott. Impeccable in intonation, remarkable in artistry, his playing for Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and Bernstein’s “on the Town” set the bar very, very high.

Concertmaster Jeanne Skrocki matched Scott’s mastery for the troublingly sad violin solos of “Schindler’s List.” As if performing for her own losses, Skrocki played with a lush tone and deep emotion. Sometimes almost understated in her delivery, she gave remarkable beauty to the piece, which reminded us of another of the many costs of World War II.

Conductor Jon Robertson and the orchestra opened the second half with Copland’s fanfare, an amazingly noble piece, solid in the hands of the orchestra’s brass. Without pause, the orchestra morphed into the theme from John Williams’ “Saving Private Ryan” in a seemingly natural transition that kept the program of short pieces from being beleaguered by too many interruptions for applause.

Not all was trouble or triumph in the war; the orchestra celebrated the ebullient nature of young men with three dance episodes from Bernstein’s musical “On the Town.” This orchestra, which once upon a time annually collaborated with a renowned jazz ensemble to present an entire concert of big jazz, seems to thrive on Bernstein’s tricky rhythms and quirky, edgy harmonies and big brassy sounds. Assertive and confident, the orchestra drove the piece into the walls of the hall.

Pianist Elvin S. Rodriguez, professor of music and chairman of the Department of Music at La Sierra University and a frequent performer in solo and chamber recitals, closed the concert and the season with “Warsaw Concerto” by Richard Addinsell. The Rachmaninoff-like work featured plenty of driving, grand chords, all handled with panache and clean technique by Rodriguez.

Nearly overwhelmed by the power of the orchestra, Rodriguez still delivered lovely expression.

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