Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Philharmonic's Mahler proves ideal memorial for Lawrence Leighton Smith

By David Sckolnik, The Gazette - Updated: November 17, 2013 at 2:47 pm

The Saturday concert was turned into a memorial for Lawrence Leighton Smith. While any music would have served as a tribute to the recently deceased music director emeritus of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, the existing program proved ideal.

To suit a slide show that included photos from Smith's life and quotes from friends, the orchestra chose Samuel Barber's beautiful and contemplative "Adagio for Strings." But it would be later on the evening when the soul and spirit of this remarkable man would truly be presenced.

Soprano Jessica Rivera brought us the music of Osvaldo Golijov, specifically his "Three Songs for Soprano and Orchestra" debuted in 2002. For "Night of the Flying Horses," a Yiddish lullaby, she set a passionate tone, displaying an utterly appealing sound driven by an ideal vocal engine.

Conductor Josep Caballé-Domenech and orchestra set a provocative canvas upon which Rivera placed her shimmering sound. Then Golijov had the orchestra take off on a Gypsy fantasy that filled the hall with rich sound and engaging textures. Here, as in all three songs, the spotlight was well served by Michael Hanson's violin, Jeremy Reynolds' clarinet and Linda Shea's bass clarinet.

The passion and beauty continued through "Lúa Descolorida," a poem by Rosalia de Castro, and "How Slow the Wind," a setting of two short Emily Dickinson poems. Rivera was resplendent throughout.

The evening was really about Gustav Mahler, his 4th Symphony. It was time for conductor and orchestra to break free of their subordinate duties and show why they continue to be the hot cultural topic in Southern Colorado.

Displaying a profound understanding of Mahler's ideology, Caball?Domenech made sure that the passionate moments of the first movement shone through. This lead to the playful second movement in which death, in the guise of Michael Hanson's violin, invites us to join him.

The slower third movement is the essence of this symphony, which depicts afterlife as a welcome relief from the struggle of human existence. The music began with an easy elegance and even disparate sounds occurred as one voice.

This is where Caballé-Domenech showed his greatness. He demanded that these 20 minutes of music never lose their intensity or logic. The climax of the movement rung out with authenticity. Now was the real memorial for Larry Smith. The orchestra sensitively expressed an ultimate sense of peace and contentment - the place all of us wish our beloved music director emeritus has found.

Rivera's vocal production and theatrical bearing were ideal in bringing to Mahler's concluding gift to realization. It was truly heaven.

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