Sunday, November 20, 2016

Stellar Strauss

Klein floors at the WSO

By Lily Olason

This afternoon, the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra unveiled their second show of the season. On the marquee:  Beethoven’s Pastorale.

Maestro Yaniv Attar noted that because Beethoven’s work is so reliant on the oboe, the program had to pair it with Strauss’ iconic homage to the instrument, Oboe Concerto in D Major. To give this work life, the WSO welcomed renowned oboist Alex Klein.

Klein has an incredible story of strength and resolve: after a virtuosic childhood catapulted him into several professional Brazilian orchestras, he studied at the Oberlin Conservatory and became principal oboe of the Chicago Symphony by age 30. Nine years later, a neurological disorder put his career on hold. This June, however, he returned to the group and resumed his place as principal.

Klein’s work on this piece was nothing short of operatic. His remarkably pure tone swelled through Strauss’ demanding intervals, sprinkling sugar over complex and infinite ups-and-downs. The balance between strings and solo was precise, and Klein’s conversation with flute, clarinet, oboe, and bassoon joyously jig-sawed. His pauses, holds, and stops left us in suspension, stranded in space—only to be picked up again by the next vibrating measure. Scales where furiously, determinedly, attended to; lulling lengths were drawn with a soft brush. Throughout, tranquility threaded, and as technically demanding as the work was, Klein guided it masterfully. The audience was left in silent awe— until the standing ovation.

After intermission, the Orchestra took on Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68 “Pastorale” (or, “Beethoven’s Sixth” for short). To Attar, this is the composer’s most melodically compelling work: the five-movement megalith gorgeously mirrors nature. Hopping, skipping, jumping clarinet, oboe, flute, and bassoon tied together and apart to form refractions of spring and summer; horn shimmered and guided passages to valiant heights, while trumpet cut through to blazing, fiery crescendos. A hush, then massive storminess erupted, playing to this Orchestra’s strengths: they can carry the massive and demanding as easily as the soft, the sweet.

Each measure sharply attended and translated with raw beauty, the dynamic, whirring movements flew by.  This is something you notice again and again at the WSO: there is a care, a place, for every note.

This afternoon’s concert was a beauty. But that should come as no surprise.

The next gig is the WSO’s annual Holiday Concert on December 4th,  featuring the Bellingham and Whatcom Chorales. The show also includes a screening of the perennial holiday favorite, The Snowman. Kids are encouraged to wear their finest PJ-attire—hot cocoa and marshmallows will be the intermission’s nosh. Visit the WSO’s website for more information and to buy tickets.

Don’t miss out!

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