The last time I ventured out to Fresno for a symphony concert, it was to hear a work by Martinu. I hope to go again in April to hear Alexander Nevsky and Kalinnikov. This time it was for Bruckner's Seventh.
All this interesting programming is the responsibility of music director Theodore Kuchar, who's retiring at the end of this season. I hope he's replaced by somebody whose sense of programming is equally enticing.
And who's equally good, because this really was a splendid concert. This venture into Bruckner was superior to SSV's first venture into Bruckner last year. With only a few rough spots where the wheels scraped against the tracks, the sound was rich and full, with Kuchar leading a rather lean but still broad and weighty interpretation. No softening into warm fuzzies during the Adagio, the bane of too many performances of this work. Kuchar's approach was summed up for me by one moment in the first movement, where the first major climax is suddenly succeeded by a jaunty staccato theme in B minor. He took this theme unexpectedly fast, zooming out of any sense of anticlimax that his emphasis on the structural joins in the work might otherwise have engendered.
Also on the program, Saint-Saëns's Piano Concerto No. 5, with the solo part played with firm and serious elan by Pascal Rogé, and a short work by a local composer, Walter Saul, titled Kiev 2014, featuring an oboe, representing peace and independence for Ukraine, winning out against the orchestra's tumultuous representation of war and occupation.
I liked this well enough that I bought a CD from the composer's sales table, featuring his religious-inspired works for piano, including a song cycle on Biblical texts that I figured B. might like even if I didn't. Unfortunately neither of us did. Hack modernism. The piece in the concert was much better.
In other musical news, here's my published review of the St. Olaf's concert I wrote about last week.