There's nothing quite like the visceral, sonic impact of a symphony orchestra operating at full tilt. Yes, a shimmering pianissimo can be truly sublime, but when you combine dynamic strings, whirling woodwinds, roaring brass and thundering percussion, it's a musical feast for the ears that quite honestly takes one's breath away.
The Oklahoma City Philharmonic's recent “Motion & Emotion” concert offered an entire program filled with such passages: A celebratory fanfare, a masterful concerto and excerpts from one of the symphonic literature's most beautiful ballet scores.
The orchestra's brass and percussion sections kicked off the evening with Aaron Copland's stirring “Fanfare for the Common Man.” The title is misleading as this is no ordinary curtain raiser. Explosive percussion ushers in this three-minute fanfare, one followed by majestic declamations by the brass in ever-changing combinations.
The work's extreme ranges and exposed textures revealed a few minor flaws but this is a work whose success must be measured on its cumulative effect, and this tribute to the American spirit got the evening off to a resounding start.
Scottish percussionist Colin Currie made his Oklahoma City Philharmonic debut in the state premiere of Jennifer Higdon's 2005 “Percussion Concerto.” The Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, born in New York in 1962, created a masterful showpiece for the work's dedicatee.
Currie has been a passionate advocate for this concerto, a work that asks the soloist to perform on 17 instruments, from tuned percussion (marimba, vibraphone, crotales) to various drums (bass, tom-toms, timbales, bongos) and assorted incidentals (gong, temple blocks, cymbals) that create a musical palette of tremendous aural variety.
Currie is a masterful performer whose finest attributes — confidence, flexibility, musical intelligence and dazzling virtuosity — combined to give this stunningly complex concerto an irresistible immediacy. It's a display piece for certain, but Currie made it into much more.