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REVIEW: 'LAST DAY ON EARTH' - 12/22/2012 2:01 pm

REVIEW: ANCHORAGE SYMPHONY WITH ELMAR OLIVEIRA

By MIKE DUNHAM

"Was that a Stradivarius?" asked a fellow member of the audience following Elmar Oliveira's performance as the soloist in the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra on Saturday night.

I couldn't say, but did note that when the Tchaikovsky Award-winning virtuoso played in the Autumn Classics chamber music series here in September, he said he was using a relatively inexpensive and very new instrument. It made a good argument for the contention that the right carpenter is more important than the right tools.

Whatever the fiddle, Oliveira's presentation may have been the sweetest-sounding rendition of the often-played concerto that I have ever heard either in person or in recordings. I don't know much about wine, but suspect that what raving connoisseurs describe as a particularly fine or exquisite vintage may be the gustatory analogue for what we heard.

I was a bit nervous about how the evening would go after the orchestra's violin section gave a sloppy reading of Bach's Air on the G String, played per custom to acknowledge the passing of a player, in this case violist Eleanor Braendel, one of the founding members of the ensemble. But they came together satisfactorily for the Mendelssohn. The audience response was warm, but brief, with only a single extra bow. But the deliciousness of Oliveira's sound was the main topic I heard discussed during intermission.

Actors presented an excerpt from the opening of "Bruckner's Last Finale," reviewed elsewhere in this blog, with the orchestra accompanying with a few bars from Bruckner's Symphony No. 7, which followed intermission. Conductor Randall Craig Fleischer took the beginnings of the first and final movements at a brisk clip. In fact I can't recall hearing those sections ever done faster.

The orchestra continued to play well, though the strings were often overpowered by the brass. The brass, boosted by four Wagner Tubas, deserves great praise, as do the winds, the former for supplying the glowing heft required for the piece, the latter for their melodic articulation. The low strings also came through with admirable precision.

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