KSO excels with Schubert, Saint-Saens pieces

If putting a concert program together requires the skill of a musical mind, Knoxville Symphony music director Lucas Richman had all the right "movements" in the right places for Thursday night's concert at the Tennessee Theatre.

Structured around Camille Saint-Saens "Concerto No. 3 in B Minor for Violin and Orchestra," Op. 61, with Philadelphia Orchestra concertmaster, David Kim, as soloist, it was one of those concerts that sat lightly but very satisfyingly on the mind.

Two works by Franz Schubert as well as Saint-Saens' "Carnival of the Animals" filled out the thoroughly delightful program.

The concert opened with Schubert's "Overture in D Major (In the Italian Style), D. 590, which really meant an homage to Gioachino Rossini. Written at a time when Rossini operas were being performed in Vienna, the comparisons with Rossisi's compositional style were as difficult to miss then as they were in the KSO performance Thursday night.

It was joyful and full of pleasures.

While Saint-Saens' violin concerto may not contain the explosive technical fireworks of other concertos, in some ways capturing the delicacy of its impressionistic coloring and subtle nuances may be more difficult to master.

Kim mastered them with the kind of accomplished grace and delight that gave the KSO audience the full benefit of his final tour performance before going home to Philadelphia to show off his hard work.

The second half of the concert began with a consummate performance of Schubert's "Symphony No. 8 in B Minor (The Unfinished"), D. 759.

It was Richman and the KSO at their very best in a season of well-played performances.

Just why Schubert didn't finish this symphony remains a mystery. Some have theorized the two movements he wrote were so perfect he might not have been able to work out a third of equal quality.

Nevertheless, the parts to do exist, especially in the kind of performance Richman and the KSO gave Thursday night, are genuinely glorious.

Even more pleasures were to be had with Saint-Saens' playful "Animals," with poet Jack Prelutsky narrating his own poems written to accompany the musical portraits.

The piece evoked plenty of smiles and soft chuckles, especially Mark Tucker's clarinet cuckoo calls in the section "Cuckoo in the Depth of the Woods."

Perhaps the most wonderful part was principal cellist Andy Bryenton's playing of the often-heard "The Swan."

Prelutsky's terrific little poems remind one of the charms of Ogden Nash. But just on principle, they're much more sensical.

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