BY CHARLES WEBB
For The Republic
The Columbus Indiana Philharmonic ended its 2015-16 ticketed season Saturday in brilliant fashion, bringing to a large and enthusiastic audience three staples of the classical music repertoire.
The chosen theme, “A Visit to old Vienna,” included works by three of the most famous and often-played Viennese composers. Opening with one of Johann Strauss Jr.’s most beautiful waltzes, “Wine, Women and Song,” its lilting melody rippled with fervor and immediately exemplified first the rich, sonorous sounds of the strings and then of each section of the orchestra.
Strauss was born into a musical family, as his father was recognized as the preeminent composer of waltzes of his generation. However, the son became even more well-known, writing more than 170 waltzes, many of which occupy exalted places in the standard romantic repertoire.
Following this exciting beginning, the orchestra and its concertmaster, Benjamin Hoffman, treated the audience to a stunning performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major. A student of several years at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, Hoffman studied violin with Alex Kerr and received a Bachelor of Music degree.
Earlier, Hoffman spoke eloquently during the Musically Speaking segment with conductor David Bowden about his ideas concerning rubato in music of this period, and in the performance demonstrated his ability to project personal ideas about the freedom of the performer.
Hoffman plays with a silky smooth tone with impeccable intonation. Difficult scale passages were executed with precision that never wavered. The Cadenza was played with virtuosity and deep feeling, and a breath-taking conclusion to the first movement brought spontaneous applause from the audience.
Beautiful sounds from the winds introduced the gorgeous second movement with its lyrical melodic line.
The transition to the last movement was seamless, and Hoffman always projected his violin sound even in the softest passages.
Both orchestra and soloist were tightly knit, a tribute to the elegant and commanding conducting of Maestro Bowden. An immediate standing ovation greeted Hoffman and the orchestra at the end of a stirring, inspired performance.
After intermission, we were treated to one of the most powerful and majestic pieces of the entire symphonic repertoire — Symphony No. 1 in C Minor by Johannes Brahms.
From the opening tympani outbursts to the final statement of the great theme of the last movement, it seemed that the musicians were inspired to get the last ounce of beauty and drama in this marvel of the symphonic repertoire.
This work exemplifies Brahms’ struggle for perfection in all that he composed. He expressed in his music depths of despair and then heights of joyful inspiration. We hear wide swings of mood fully developed in the first movement.
The second movement, a beautiful song, was followed by a lively scherzo. As throughout the entire concert, tempos seemed just right, and the orchestra played as one unit.
One of the most sublime moments in all of music is the transition from the third to the fourth movement, a transition lead by the French horn. Ashley Cumming, principal horn, played with a burnished, golden sound and introduced this heroic theme with all the care and feeling it deserved.
Two other principals whose outstanding solo work, especially in the Brahms symphony, deserves special mention are Annie Corrigan, principal oboe, and Mackenzie Brauns, principal bassoon.
At the conclusion of this triumphant marvel of the literature, the entire audience rose to its feet in a thunderous ovation, a great tribute to the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic and its imaginative and superb conductor, Maestro Bowden.
Congratulations to the citizens of Columbus for their never-flagging support for one of the jewels of this community.
The Columbus Indiana Philharmonic’s free, annual, patriotic SALUTE! concert honoring veterans will be conducted at 7 p.m. May 27 at the Bartholomew County Memorial for Veterans, Second and Jackson steets in downtown Columbus.
Charles Webb is dean emeritus of the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University in Bloomington.