Ark. Symphony debuts new director
The second week in October was the debut weekend for the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s new music director, Phillip Mann. The inaugural event begins the new season of the Masterworks Program. The program highlighted the works of Bernstein, Gershwin and Dvorak.
Mann competed for the position during the previous 2009 masterworks season. Audiences of the 2009 season were able to cast their votes for or against about each conductor and offer comments. Mann stood out among a half-dozen talented music directors whom each auditioned throughout the 2009 season.
The debut program was reflective of an emerging American music culture. Each work was composed and performed in the United States within the last 117 years. Leonard Bernstein’s Candide made a debut in 1956. George Gershwin concerto in F major made its first appearance in 1925. Antonin Dvorak a native Russian composed his Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, OP.95 (from the New World) while visiting the United States.
The “American pianist,” Kevin Cole, gave a virtuoso performance of Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F Major. While Cole played with an incredible high energy, Director Mann led a very responsive orchestra, which added to the intensity of the work. Cole’s unabashed interpretive style, Mann’s leadership and the fluid response of the orchestra concluded with an appreciative standing ovation from the audience.
Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony was performed with equal spontaneity under Mann’s leadership as in the previous Gershwin piece. The movement presented melodic themes inspired by American poets. The strong and commanding beginning wove itself through a serene flute solo to a solemn brass choral. The symphony then transformed into dynamic dance rhythms and ended with a strong conclusion. The audience was inspired and rose to a standing ovation again.
The whole show was colorful and exciting music sprung from American soil. Mann and his orchestra performed well. The new season has a bright future.