USC Thornton Symphony excites with Penderecki

The USC Thornton Symphony performed a series of concertos by Krzysztof Penderecki, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Nikolai Kapustin, Friday evening in Bovard Auditorium. The performance was conducted by artistic leader and principal conductor Carl St. Clair.

The evening began with Penderecki’s Cello Concerto No. 2, featuring cellist Jonathan Dormand. Modern in musical styling, Penderecki’s score is defined by its fragmented and dissonant passages. The unraveling, cerebral concerto at times seemed to represent a Hitchcockian vision more so than a formulated classical piece. The orchestra was able to easily take Penderecki’s vision and stylistic cues and bring them to full realization.

Dormand was able to provide dramatic punctuation on top of the eclectic orchestral score. Knowing exactly when to embrace Penderecki’s style allowed the cellist to dig deeper into the meaning of the piece. St. Clair, however, seemed to take a back seat for the evening’s performances allowing soloists to bring the pieces to full realization.

In a dramatic shift of styling, soloist Sergio Coelho was able to lead the orchestra in Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A major. Emphasizing technical ability and Mozart’s precision, the orchestra took us on a musical journey with the jubilant sensibilities of Coelho leading the way.

Coelho’s performance was superb, to say the least, showcasing the heights of clarinet proficiency and taking the clarinet to its limits. If Mozart’s music can be described as fitting together like a puzzle, then the interplay between Coelho and the symphony showed no seams.

The last piece of the evening, Kapustin’s Piano Concerto No. 2, could have easily been at home in a jazz club or the Broadway stage. Much like the work of George Gershwin, Kapustin was able to successfully intertwine both the jazz and classical worlds in his work. Soloist Andrea Choi on piano guided the orchestra and audience in a lush and lyrical score. Showcasing both technical and artistic proficiency, Choi was able to make the piano shine, sparing no tricks. A brassy, lively orchestra proved that they know not only how to effectively perform the classics, but also how to perfect lighter music.

Choi played the piano the way it was meant to be played: digging into every corner of the piano’s abilities, knowing exactly when the piece demanded technical and serious phrases and when musical fireworks were needed. Choi’s ardor and pure enjoyment showed not only true showmanship, but serious range in a musician.

The Thornton Symphony’s next performance will be on March 11th at 7:30 p.m. in Bovard Auditorium. The performance will feature music by Russian composers; Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances and The Firebird: Suite by Igor Stravinsky.