It was seven o'clock in the evening and the fresh sounds of morning started to surround those present like the early dew of dawn. You could feel the sun slowly rising as the day woke up. These were the first notes of Ottorino's Respighi's (1879 - 1936) Fontane di Roma's (1916) first movement, The fountain of Valle Giulia at Dawn, coming to life under the baton of Grammy nominated and Emmy Award winner Peruvian conductor, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, who guided the skillful execution of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra this past Thursday, October 17, 2013, at The Woodruff Art Center's Symphony Hall.
The Atlanta Symphony explains that 'Fountains of Rome is the first of three orchestral showpieces by Italian composer Ottorino's Respighi portraying sights, sounds, and history of the Eternal City. Pines of Rome and Roman Festivals followed in 1924 and 1928.'
Harth-Bedoya gracefully succeeded in leading the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra to emote what the composer himself conveyed was his intention; that he 'endeavored to express the sentiments and visions suggested to him by four of Rome's fountains contemplated at an hour in which the character is most in harmony with the surrounding landscape, or in which their beauty appears most impressive.'
Through the second, third, and fourth movements -- The Triton Fountain at Morn, The Fountain of Trevi at Mid-Day, and The Villa Medici Fountain at Sunset -- the audience was taken in a musical journey full of the colors and sounds of this half a day experienced when the stars rise, pairing with sounds the beauty of these fountain landscapes as the composer envisioned.
The first half of the night concluded with the world premier of Philip Lasser's (b. 1963) The Circle and The Child (2012) -- a concerto for piano and orchestra with three movements: I. Poco Allegro, II. In a old, steady, inexorable tempo, somewhat distant and, III. Poco allegro.
Simone Dinnerstein, the soloist of the night, played expressively, emoting with grace through a difficult, fully textured score as it was delivered by the orchestra. Her hands swiftly moved through the ivories like an elegant spider creating a web of sounds where the child's loves and fears interweaved, particularly towards the end of the work.
Lasser explains of his composition: 'At the core of my concerto is a Chorale by Johann Sebastian Bach...One hears the chorale as an intimate confession from the piano dialoguing with itself recast as the fears and loves of a child.'
The second part of the program consisted of selections from Sergei Prokofiev's suite from the ballet Cinderella arranged by Miguel Harth-Bedoya and that he conducted without a score as he did with the Respighi at the beginning of the night.
The Peruvian conductor engaged in a swift exchange with the orchestra, one that brought to life the beloved fairytale until the clock 'tic tac'ed' announcing not only the end of the Prince's Ball, but the proximate final episodes of a musical journey. It is evident that Harth-Bedoya conducts with his soul, where his whole body becomes the baton, engaging in a dance, in a dialogue with the musicians under his direction, thus bringing the black and white of the score to a life full of auditory color. And, with romantically triumphant sounds reminiscent of a crystal slipper, the fairytale ended as all lived happily ever after.
It must be said that Atlanta is lucky to have an orchestra that can deliver the most challenging works with artistic prowess and beauty. Such need to also be experienced by young audiences that can keep the sounds and heart of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra alive and beating for many future generations to enjoy. So, Atlanta, bring your kids to enjoy the magic of music with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra even if it's a school night, as they will take with them a gift that will last a lifetime as they witness the creative possibilities of an expert baton as the one from conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya...