review by janet i. martineau
"Russian Milestones" was the title of Saturday night's concert at the Temple Theatre.....but it was more like "Saginaw Milestones."
Quite simply the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra outdid itself, particularly in the performance of Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring." Bet they could hear its rousing sounds over at TheDow where a football game was in progress.
Normally I listen to a SBSO concert with eyes closed, savoring the music more than the sight.
Not on this night.
Watching the orchestra, every section of it, put muscle in this piece about human sacrifice was captivating -- especially the hard-driving strings.
Watching maestro Brett Mitchell swing and sway and sweat in conducting it made up for the missing dancers in this ballet piece celebrating its 100th birthday this month.
And its percussive power somehow demanded it be watched.
One minute it was pulsating and pounding and then Mitchell stopped it cold, only to start up again quietly and heading again for full throttle. Sometimes it swayed. And remarkably, requiring great stamina, its 14 sections were played nonstop except for one pause.
At the end, after thunderous applause and a standing ovation, Mitchell held the score over his head in triumph to the stellar performance of it and, we assume, in homage to the work itself.
Opening the evening was another power piece -- Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D Major. The power here was less in the orchestra and more with the soloist, American-born Joan Kwuon. Her masterful skill in a piece that was for three years unplayed because it was deemed unplayable was so outstanding the audience gave her long and sustained applause after the first movement.
And she had two more movements to go! Ones which got even more difficult and well played -- with the solid orchestra all the way with her.
Neither of these pieces were well received when they premiered. Today, at least with this SBSO performance of them, they left us breathless and amazed.