Jon Robertson begins his 29th season with the orchestra, recovering from cancer treatments
The Redlands community has reason to celebrate: the Redlands Symphony Orchestra has launched into yet another season of music-making its 61st and conductor Jon Robertson is starting his 29th season as the orchestra’s music director.
Robertson conducted the orchestra in the season-opening concert Saturday night and delivered nothing less than everything the audience has come to expect from him over almost three decades music that stirs the mind, the heart and the soul.
According to Redlands Symphony Association CEO Paul Ideker, Robertson has received a clean bill of health from his doctors after an early summer recurrence of the cancer that first struck him 15 years ago.
Still recovering from treatments, Robertson conducted the entire program from a stool, a strategy he might consider keeping. Every time the music swelled into a huge crescendo, he gradually rose from the stool, head high, arms outstretched, seeming to lift the musicians to higher heights than they had imagined possible. What an effect!
Robertson’s conducting seemed particularly meticulous for Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4, a long and complex work with spectacularly beautiful sections. Robertson maintained ultimate control of the sensibilities of the piece, guiding the smoothly executed exchanges in the wind section for the first movement, holding the pizzicato at a hush for the warm and very legato viola lines in the second movement, cleanly navigating the tricky wind entrances in the third movement, whittling the orchestra down to a tiny statement before lifting them to the mighty finale in the fourth movement.
Directing aside, the horns make or break this symphony, and in this performance they put the music right where it was intended. From start to finish, the horns, led by principal horn Laura Brenes, played like they were auditioning for a gig at Disney Hall. With glorious tone, secure entrances, and probably the loudest loud I’ve heard from four horns at the conclusion of the first movement, they formed the spine of the orchestra.
Robertson’s soul-driven management of the work’s details made me want to keep going with the orchestra around the next musical corner. I still wonder what the overall effect would be if the symphony could proceed without applause between movements.
The opening work, Tchaikovsky’s “Variations On a Rococo Theme” for violoncello glided pleasantly along without interruptions so cellist David Cole, as soloist, could sustain and interpret the musical connections throughout.