Danail Rachev, music director

Danail Rachev, music director

It was a pleasant evening tonight at the symphony — nothing too wild and nothing at all out of place.

The program, which was all about America, began with a couple early 20th century pieces that set a couple people’s teeth on edge: Charles Ives “The Unanswered Question,” and Edgard Varese “Ameriques.”

The latter piece, especially, was destined to piss some people off, with its dissonance and cacophony and its enormous orchestra — about 140 musicians were on stage, as the symphony orchestra was joined by the students of the University of Oregon Orchestra .

But, alas, the Varese was not much more than wonderfully and satisfyingly loud. It seemed very much of a moment in time,  a long time ago, and felt, despite its energy, sometimes quaint. A friend, at intermission, said it was music to commit suicide to. No, it wasn’t that bad, and it wasn’t really bad at all — it was just kind of predictable.

The second half of the program was Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9, “From the New World.”

This, of course, is music to hum along to — pretty much everyone knows it — and Rachev’s interpretation was OK but lacked much sparkle. The real heroes and heroines of this piece are the woodwinds, and they played valiantly, but were sometimes lost in the overall balance.

It was a fine night, though, the hall was nearly full, and I’m looking forward to hearing Elizabeth Racheva — Danail’s wife — next month when she joins bass-baritone Joseph Barron in a program of Broadway hits.