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MIT Symphony recovers after uncertain start

MIT Symphony Orchestra

Conducted by David Epstein.

John Ito '93, viola.

Works by Walton and Beethoven.

Kresge Auditorium.

Oct. 15, 8:30 p.m.

By Craig Chang
Staff Reporter

Saturday night saw confidence tether the musical potential of the MIT Symphony Orchestra and its soloist John Ito. Wavering throughout the night's performance of Walton's Viola Concerto and Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 were poise and musical decisiveness, hand in hand.

First signs of insecurity during the first movement of the Walton concerto translated into an ambiguous musical stance. A weak rapport between Ito and various woodwind soloists suggested the players were not yet fully focused, unsure of which impression to capture. Even the dubious entrance of the viola's second subject confused the bitter-sweet duality around which the piece develops.

Though Ito and the orchestra seemed to recoup much of their misguided energy during the scherzo, the last movement remained the players' turning point. Here richness of counterpoint emerged from the ensemble's music-making, especially during the finale's fugal tutti. Quite dramatically, the bold appearance of the bass clarinet solo seemed to reaffirm the players' conviction.

This last movement also revealed Ito's energy and wide reach of emotions. As Ito recapitulated the second subject from the first movement, his playing projected both a tinge of bitter consent and nostalgia, for the finale seemed to be reminiscing previous themes. And just as the final movement capitalizes on its intermingling of themes and voices, the orchestra demonstrated new enthusiasm as it relished the sheer contrapuntal joy of the medley.

The last half of the evening's program showcased the talents of the woodwinds with Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony. Indeed the players caught much of the rural splendor of Beethoven's evocation of Nature. Especially radiant was the interplay between the oboes, flutes, and clarinets: Frolicking in the countryside seems one apt impression from their playing.

But the violins seemed to bask too much in the lusciousness of their sound. Indeed, a velvety texture was appropriate for many moments, but their overzealousness with the lush sacrificed variety and subdued the role of the other strings. In throwing off the balance, the violins took much of the bite out of the rustic edginess of the third movement.

Even with this blurred palette, energy and enthusiasm was on the rise during the symphony's finale. This trend produced some wonderful moments of exaltation, unquenchable by minor mishaps - instead, able to forge past the uncertainty of the evening's shaky outset.