OK, I’ll admit it. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is about as close to feeling real religion as I’ve ever come: Those cascading moments when, at least in translation, the lyrics to that staggering final movement of an hour-long work written nearly two centuries ago by an old man who was sick and deaf actually take us to wherever it is beyond the canopy of stars that God resides.
So, yes, I was up for it tonight — along with everyone else in a nearly a full house at the Hult’s Silva Concert Hall — and the Eugene Symphony, under the direction of Danail Rachev, pretty much delivered the goods.
The concert marked the end of the orchestra’s 50th anniversary season, and what a season it’s been. Yo-Yo Ma. Former music director Marin Alsop, not to mention her two successors, Giancarlo Guerrero and Miguel Harth-Bedoya. A disco dance in the Hult lobby. The whole season has felt positively giddy, and it’s been a whale of a lot of fun.
Tonight’s show opened with the world premiere of a new piano concerto by Robert Kyr, a University of Oregon music professor whose work has been praised by National Public Radio and by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. With Alexandre Dossin, a UO colleague of Kyr’s, on piano, the Dawning of the World (Piano Concerto No. 1) wove western structures around Balinese Gamelan sounds to create a three-movement tone poem about the Northwest landscape.
New music can be a challenge, to tell you the truth. I’d like to hear this one again. It was inviting but left me at times confused about where it was going.
The Beethoven absolutely delivered. Soloists Amanda Hall, soprano; Stacey Rishoi, mezzo-soprano; Scott Ramsay, tenor; and Lee Poulis, baritone, joined the symphony chorus to produce a mesmerizing rendition of the familiar but uplifting piece.
Rachev and the orchestra last did the Ninth in 2010 in a much less convincing performance. It was great to hear the majestic work done with passion and drive tonight.