Classical Music

Westerville Symphony: Practice Review

On Tuesday’s post about the Westerville Symphony concert, I mentioned that I’d written a practice concert review so a review website could see how I write.  I’d never written a review before and probably won’t again.  They said I didn’t have sufficient musical education background in order to write reviews for them.  I wasn’t critical enough about the music itself.  No problem, because it’s true.  I don’t and I probably wasn’t.  I told them that in advance, but I tried it out anyway and they were good enough to read what I wrote.  (And very nice in their response)

I went ahead and Emailed what I’d written to two people at the Westerville Symphony, one of whom asked if I’d be willing to post my review publicly.

While Monday’s post was just a “Hey – I went to a great concert, this is what I thought” kind of post, this is the actual (practice) review that I wrote about it.

Concert review: Westerville Symphony

Venue: Alum Creek Park Amphitheater

Date: Sunday, August 11  6:30PM

On the last night of the City of Westerville’s Sounds of Summer free concert series, the Westerville Symphony, under the leadership of Maestro Peter Stafford Wilson, took us on a musical journey that spanned from New York to Russia. Included in the program were pieces by Copland, Wagner, Khachaturian, Chabrier and Tchaikovsky.  Concert-goers enjoyed picnics on the lawn of the outdoor amphitheater in Alum Creek Park right off the Otterbein University’s campus in Westerville, Ohio.

WOSU’s Jennifer Hambrick opened the evening by describing all the music we were about to hear after which she introduced Maestro Wilson and the concert began.

Despite its originally having been debuted indoors at the High School for Music and Arts in New York City, our outdoor concert appropriately started with Aaron Copland’s An Outdoor Overture.  The orchestra joined what started off with a trumpet solo for a joyous rendition of this lively piece.  The xylophone was especially good and along with the rest of the percussion section added just the right touch to make this version so enjoyable.

Though not until after it was performed, Maestro Wilson told us of a conversation he’d had with the late Adolph “Bud” Herseth, longtime principal trumpet player for the Chicago Symphony.  When asked what the most difficult trumpet solo was to play, Mr. Herseth immediately responded with, “the Rienzi Overture”.

In Richard Wagner’s Rienzi’s Overture, the trumpet starts the piece with one soft, sustained, very exposed note that is out there for all to hear.  The tone must be perfect as there is no room for error.

Principal trumpet player, Richard Scranton, nailed it!

Later, the cellos and basses had an almost haunting tone through the buildup to the melody.  Towards the end, the march portion really appealed to the audience – especially to the small child in front of me who pretended she was conducting the orchestra!  She did a pretty good job of keeping the beat, too!  Future Maestro, perhaps?

We soon moved eastward to Russia where we learned that composers such as Sergei Rachmaninoff and Igor Stravinsky left their home country of Russia because of revolution and war. Armenian-born Aram Khachaturian, while still allowing the folk music of his native Armenia to influence his compositions, was able to make his living in the Soviet Union learning to navigate his work within the expectations of the Stalinist regime.

We were treated to three of the five movements from his Masquerade Suite, originally written in 1941 as “incidental music” to Michael Lermentov’s play of the same name.  Maestro Wilson started with the Waltz at a rather upbeat tempo, a refreshing and far more enjoyable version than slower recordings I’d previously heard.  From there he moved on to the Nocturne with a beautifully-played solo by concertmaster Erin Gilliland. Finally, the set concluded with the Galop with all its happy-go-lucky, yet funky, dissonant chords which showed off the talent of the winds section.

Next up was Emmanuel Chabrier’s rendition of a Spanish Jota,  Of his España Rhapsody for Orchestra, critics of his day wrote that he composed Spanish music better than actual Spanish composers. Ever humble, Chabrier responded by saying it was a “piece in F and nothing more.”  The cellos and basses along with the percussion section again made it sound like so much more!

Closing the concert was my favorite piece of the evening: Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italien.  Opening again with the trumpet that brought with it the rest of the brass with the timpani, it transitioned to some nice, crisp duet and trio work with the oboe, bassoon and clarinet.  Even the harp made a lovely impression.  The strings played at such a quick, almost frenetic, pace, yet at the same time, maintained the clarity needed to perform this piece well.

After the last note sounded, the audience gave the orchestra a well-deserved standing ovation.

On a side note, one of my favorite aspects of the evening was when Maestro Wilson spoke to us in between numbers telling stories and anecdotes along the way.  He did such a wonderful job interacting with the audience, especially when a mom had to grab her son trying to climb on stage.  The Maestro joked how the little toddler just wanted to be in the next generation of trumpet players!

How could he not with such great role models on stage?

Overall I found the Westerville Symphony was an absolute joy to listen to and the venue was just perfect for all the families there listening to some fantastic music on a beautiful Sunday evening.

The Westerville Symphony starts its next Masterworks season on Saturday, October 19, where it will perform Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op 90 and Chopin’s Piano Concerto No 1 in E Minor, Op. 11 featuring Nick Ross on the Piano.  For more information about their 2013-2014 schedule, visit their website at


So what do you think?  🙂


5 thoughts on “Westerville Symphony: Practice Review

  1. This is the kind of review I like to read! I was sorry to have to miss this concert, but your coverage made me feel like I was there.


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