The Pine Bluff Symphony Orchestra kicked off its 2012-2013 season Sunday afternoon with “Great Orchestral Showpieces” under the direction of conductor Charles Jones Evans at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.
The 46 member orchestra was joined by guest artist David Gerstein who played his cello to brilliant effect for one concert piece.
Jones Evans, who is now in his 20th season as director and conductor of the PBSO, once again proved his mettle as a top-notch commander of his artistically gifted troops.
Concertmaster and first violin Linda Hsu emerged from behind the curtain at stage right, violin in hand, to join the seated orchestra and to bring each section into the proper common pitch.
Next to emerge from stage right was Jones Evans, who enjoyed his own round of applause as he took his place at the head of the orchestra, baton at the ready.
The opening selection was Water Music Suite No. 2 in D (1717) by Georg Frideric Handel (1685-1759).
“This is one of the most well-known Baroque music pieces,” Jones Evans said in introducing Water Music.
Composed by Handel for King George I of England, the piece as performed by the PBSO evoked in the listener’s mind a journey to the royal court on a special occasion.
The concert program explains that the piece was composed by Handel for a summer party held aboard several royal barges on the River Thames in London in the summer of 1717.
Water Music is a stirring feast for the ears as the rich tones of the French horn, the oboe and the bassoon take their turns with the trumpet and then the string section of violin, cello and bass.
In short, Water Music as performed by the PBSO was a stirring composition brought vigorously to life at all levels.
Variations on a Rococo Theme for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 33 (1877) by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), as performed by the PBSO, showcased the extensive cello talents of guest artist Gerstein.
Gerstein, who is the principal cellist of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, amply displayed how he achieved that lofty rank.
The PBSO served as the background to Gerstein’s cello, with intricate, precise note creation flowing from his bow.
In what could be described as a musical version of the children’s game HORSE, in which a particular basketball shot must be recreated by those following, Gerstein lobbed note after note into the basket, followed closely behind by the orchestra.
Gerstein’s range was masterful as he moved from the lowest register immediately up to the very highest.
Variations is broken up into seven ‘variations’ by Tchaikovsky, with each one composed in the Rococo style of Mozart and intended to engender enjoyment for the sheer sake of enjoyment.
The woodwind section is featured here with the flute and the clarinet making several appearances.
All in all Variations is a celebration of all things string.
After the intermission, the PBSO performed Le Tombeau de Couperin (1917 for piano; orchestrated 1920) by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937).
Jones Evans explained that Ravel served briefly in World War I and after being discharged for medical reasons composed Le Tombeau as a tribute to six of his fellow soldiers who perished in the conflict.
The piece is characterized by sweeping, airy movements that ebb and flow, with strings and subdued trumpet prevailing.
The concert’s final piece was Czech Suite, Op. 39 (1879) by Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904).
Jones Evans said that the piece was composed by Dvorak as an homage to the sounds of his native Bohemia.
The PBSO performed four of the piece’s five movements and did so with a musical strength that brought to mind the folk dances of the people of Eastern Europe.
The first concert of the PBSO’s 2012-2013 season was a true success in every aspect.
The next concert will be “Home for the Holidays: Music of the Season” to be held Dec. 9 at 4 p.m. at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.