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Review: GSO brings spirit to 'Made in the USA' works

The Greenville Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of music director Edvard Tchivzhel, celebrated the opening of its 65th season Saturday night at the Peace Center with a beautifully diverse program, "Made in the USA."

The performance featured 20th century works composed in the States by Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin and Sergei Rachmaninoff, the great Russian composer who resided here for the final two decades of his life.

For the curtain-opener Tchivzhel chose the overture to Bernstein's comic operetta "Candide." The GSO's performance was showy, brisk and long on brass and bluster.

Next the program featured Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Martinez in Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F (Opus 45), a three-movement work that integrates classical tradition with jazz. She took the opening piano solo with its glistening scales and sassy rhythms at Gershwin's tempo markings, creating a reference point that ultimately allowed her to underline the work's structural integrity.

The second movement takes its inspiration from the American blues, and Martinez played the sultry chord sequences and snappy tempos with equal aplomb. Orchestra members contributed solo trumpet and flute passages that added to the imaginative effect of the movement, which comes gracefully down to a quiet, wistful ending.

The final movement brought together the work's brilliant melodies and outbursts of orchestral color. Martinez superbly met all the score's virtuosic demands for the soloist, and Tchivzhel kept the collaboration energized and coherent.

The last piece on the program was Rachmaninoff's final work, "Symphonic Dances." This somber composition is full of rich harmonies and haunting themes that reflect the Russia of Rachmaninoff's distant memories, especially its church music.

The GSO's performance was revelatory of the depth and breadth of the composer's accomplishment. Highlights included the rhythmic pulse and gorgeous string melodies of the first movement, the violin solo by Xiaoqing Yu in the second movement, and the furious Dies Irae of the finale, which resolves in a victorious resurrection theme, after which the composer penned the word "Alleluia!"

The concert repeats at 3 p.m. today. For tickets, call 864-467-3000.

Janie Caves McCauley, Greenville Online
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