HT Review: Poetic License

Bloomington Symphony Orchestra, local poets create a celebration

Posted: Monday, February 15, 2016 12:00 am

The concert was labeled “Poetic License — A Marriage of Music and Poetry.” It involved the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra, artistic director and conductor Adam Bodony, and four local poets connected with the Writers Guild at Bloomington. It was presented on Saturday evening, during the Valentine’s Day weekend, in the Buskirk-Chumley Theater.

And from the loud volume of the ovations from a good-sized audience, one must acclaim the event a success. The musicians in the orchestra seem to play for their young and ambitious maestro with increasing comfort. Also, their buy-in to a Bodony pledge that, under his guidance, the Bloomington Symphony will search for and broaden the repertoire is fully at work.

Not everything heard, musically or verbally, breathed the spirit of Valentine’s Day and love, but the mood engendered in the theater suggested celebration. And, certainly, the concert’s opening number did: Mendelssohn’s jubilant Wedding March, part of music he wrote for Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” To precede Saturday’s performance, 17-year-old Brandon Knight stepped forward to read his “The New Vision,” a strongly-phrased and extensive poem that expressed hope for young voices to come forward and to quell the tide of wide-spread societal frustration and divide.

Beethoven’s radiant Romance Number 2 for violin and smaller-sized orchestra placed Kit Boulding, the BSO’s concertmaster, in the spotlight. Her reading honored the music, as did the orchestra’s. Bodony made sure the collaboration was lovely to hear. Again, first, there was poetry, this time Tony Brewer’s. He is chair of the Writers Guild at Bloomington and brought his poem “Beloved,” its theme an expressed belief in the passion that gives birth to art, more specifically Beethoven’s devotion and trust, even as he faced the loss of hearing, that his muse would not desert him.

A plaintive “Second Essay for Orchestra,” written during World War II by Samuel Barber, completed the pre-intermission portion of Saturday’s concert. Here, played with passion, was somber music emotionally charged by a sensitive young composer worried about the presence of open conflict. Leading the way with “Houses of War,” a poetic reaction to growing up in wartime England, was Antonia Matthew evocatively sharing those memories.

Poet Patsy Rahn broke the intermission atmosphere with her “in the quiet of the cave, in the silence of the world,” a clever exercise in word and sound games. It led to an exciting presentation of Franz Liszt’s most famous of 13 symphonic poems, “Les Preludes,” a dramatic collection of themes and developments that gave Bodony and the orchestra plenty of emotive and technical opportunities to shine, which they took advantage of, so to give the audience good reason to shout and cheer.

Adding to the words was a profusion of photo images chosen to topically support the words spoken by the quartet of poets and thrown upon a screen above the orchestra. The credit for them goes to Jenny Stopher and assistant Kelly Webeck.