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EMF: Standard Fare is Made Special

July 6, 2008

By Ken Keuffel, Winston-Salem Journal, N.C.

Jul. 6–Let’s face it. Classical music’s summer festivals are largely about championing the tried-and-true. The Eastern Music Festival, under way in Dana Auditorium at Guilford College and other venues in Greensboro, is no exception.

Last night, for example, the Eastern Festival Orchestra, which consists of the festival’s instructors, teamed up with Midori in Brahms’ Violin Concerto. David Lockington conducted, with the rest of the program consisting of Philip Sawyers’ The Gale of Life and Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5.

You can bet Brahms’ concerto, a war horse of war horses, will be part of another festival program in the near future. I’m not so sure, though, that we’ll hear a performance as special as the one Midori delivered last night.

This woman, who last year participated in a memorable residency with the Winston-Salem Symphony, can play. She knows how to make even the most familiar fare sound fresh, exciting and moving. We heard that in the Adagio, introduced by a glowing oboe solo. Midori took her time with the music, inviting us to savor each and every note as it sang out sweetly and uncovering layers of beauty that went way beyond mere surface pleasures.

I’ve always thought that the opening Allegro movement was just a tad too long, wishing that the composer had expressed his ideas more concisely. But Midori turned the whole thing into a series of engaging episodes. The orchestra was in excellent form.

Gale of Life began the program, introducing us to Sawyers, a British composer (b. 1951) who has begun establishing a reputation in this country. The piece seemed to have thrilling echoes of Shostakovich, in its harmonic language and its aggressive rhythms and explosive fanfares. Classy wind solos were heard occasionally as well.

Last night’s program by the Eastern Festival Orchestra will be repeated at 8 tonight in Farthing Auditorium at Appalachian State University, as part of An Appalachian Summer Festival in Boone. Call 1-800-841-ARTS.

Ken Keuffel can be reached at 727-7337 or at kkeuffel@wsjournal.com.

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