Eugene Symphony Orchestra

A synergistic triumph of wills

Eugene Symphony closes a half-season of Tchaikovsky, Verdi, and Adams with popular ruckus Symfest

The five Eugene Symphony concerts I attended in the first half of this year (I was unable to attend the all twentieth-century music Valentine’s Day concert) were of such diverse programming that it is hard to ally them all with one unifying concept. Audiences witnessed world-class virtuosic performances of standards of the classical concerto repertoire; giant assemblages of musicians filling the hall with stunning walls of sound; boundary-pushing, comfort-zone-crashing chromatic works from the late nineteenth century; mid-twentieth-century dance works; twenty-first century ensemble works of consonant complexity; ethereal experiments of light and sound; and an evening of international jazz artists, contemporary ballet performance, pop sonorities, and a knock-out performance by a high-school glee club.

Whew! That sounds like a good season from a selection of arts organizations in a city twice the size of Eugene, let alone the half-season output of one orchestra. Can that one orchestra maintain high standards in such a diverse array of programming?

Yes. And here’s how.

Cognitive dissonance

Pianist Natasha Paremski performed with Eugene Symphony Orchestra.
Pianist Natasha Paremski performed with Eugene Symphony Orchestra.

Natasha Paremski’s performance, in January, of Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto was a synergistic triumph of wills. After the orchestra’s horn-blasting introduction, Paremski muscled her way into the tempo-control seat by pushing the ensemble to meet her slightly faster pace. Maestro Francesco Lecce-Chong and company worked hard to match her, the Maestro single-handedly lifting the orchestra up a notch with powerful gestures that belied his featherweight stature. This man knows how to work hard.

That effort defined the entire performance, with Paremski employing sophisticated nuances of tempo, articulation, and phrasing that stretched time and tension and even the orchestra’s cohesion. The results were a deliciously tense rapport that had everyone on the edge of their seats—musicians, pianist, audience—and a stunningly emotional performance that belonged not just to the virtuoso but to the orchestra and Maestro as well. 

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Eugene Symphony: earning attention

Orchestra’s fall 2018-19 season includes strong performances, contemporary repertoire, engaging community events

After the Eugene Symphony’s 2018-19 season opener, high like only a classical music geek can be and thoroughly lit by a stunning performance of Shostakovich’s fifth symphony, I wandered around the Hult Center’s cathedral-like atrium. Eventually, I paused in front of a blackboard-sized whiteboard that stood in the center of the lobby. A question scrawled across the top asked: How did the concert make you feel? Without hesitation, I grabbed a marker and wrote, Like I should be paying more attention to the ESO.

Eugene Symphony Orchestra

Then a niggling worry crept into my head. Yes, without a doubt, it was the best performance of Shostakovich’s masterpiece I had ever heard (live or recorded). And yes, I had given myself over to the shameless, spine-shivering, scalp-tightening response that such performances elicit, even jumping to my feet and joining my fellow concert goers in the all-too-common standing ovation (and I meant it, goddammit!). BUT! Could this level of excellence be maintained? Now, having attended all the concerts in the season’s first half and many of the orchestra’s excellent concert-week community events, I can confidently say…no…and yes…and thank goodness for that!

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