CEDAR RAPIDS — Orchestra Iowa’s last masterworks series concert at Coe College’s Sinclair Auditorium this weekend was a triumph for an organization that wasn’t sure of its future in the aftermath of the Floods of 2008.
Maestro Timothy Hankewich thanked Coe administrators for their willingness to provide Orchestra Iowa with a performance venue when its permanent home, the Paramount Theatre, was severely damaged by floodwaters. Hankewich said the orchestra will be returning in the fall to a restored Paramount after opening its 2012-2013 season Sept 9 with a concert on the lawn at Brucemore.
Saturday’s concert, “A Slavic Celebration,” opened with Antonin Dvorak’s “Slavonic Dance, Op. 46, No. 8.” The familiar music is essentially a lively Bohemian folk dance that helped establish an upbeat mood for the concert.
Bela Bartok’s “Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta” required a very different orchestra layout that essentially created two string sections on opposite sides of the stage separated by the percussion section with the piano and celesta front and center.
The Bartok composition is technically demanding, but Orchestra Iowa Principal Pianist Miko Kominami and Allison Bechtum playing the celesta were more than up to the task. Unlike the expansive music of Mozart or Tchaikovsky, Bartok preferred short, rhythmically dynamic musical motives that involve fugues and canons often played inverted or upside down and backward.
Orchestra Iowa concluded the concert with a thrilling performance of Dimitry Shostakovich’s “Symphony No. 5 in D minor.” With its contrasting themes of strident militarism and pensive melancholy, the symphony captures the turmoil of the Stalinist period when Shostakovich feared he might be picked up at any time by the secret police.
Kudos are in order for Principal Horn Charles Harris, Principal Cellist Carey Bostian, Principal Timpanist Alan Lawrence, Principal Clarinetist Christine Bellomy and Concertmaster Tarn Travers. The audience responded with a well-deserved standing ovation.
- George Ford