Des Moines group hits high note on technique

Des Moines Register
26 Oct. 2004

Des Moines group hits high note on technique

But the second concert doesn’t measure up in musical content.

After the sublime music Yo-Yo Ma and the Des Moines Symphony presented
in the first subscription concert of the season in September,
it was interesting to see how the rest of the orchestra’s season
would progress.

Under the direction of Joseph Giunta, the second concert of the series,
performed Saturday evening at the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines,
was strong on technique and balance and short on musical content.

The concert commenced with “An American Abroad” by Michael Torke. He
is one of the most successful of American composers who gained fame
in the last part of the 20th century by providing short, brilliantly
orchestrated pieces that are full of energy but light on content.

In this work, he has extended feeble musical material into a longer
work, which lasted about 20 minutes but seemed like an hour. It was
somewhat pleasant while it lasted, but totally forgettable after
it was done. Regardless, the orchestra performed it with precision
and finesse.

Next came the Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra by the Soviet-Armenian
composer Alexander Arutanian. Unknown in this country, Arutanian
followed the Soviet dogma well, writing a romantic-sounding work with
echoes of Armenian folk music resulting in an forgettable piece that
offended no one.

It’s a pity that solo trumpeter Derek Stratton didn’t have a more
interesting piece to work with, because he plays with great agility
and expression. Especially beautiful was his handling of the muted
central section of the work, which he performed with poignant lyricism.

After intermission the orchestra’s principal second violinist,
Misha Rosenker, played the small but exquisite Introduction and Rondo
Capriccioso, Op. 28, by Camille Saint Saens. Rosenker easily handled
this flashy and technically demanding composition, playing it with
virtuosic surety and musical integrity. His harmonics were crystal
clear and his intonation impeccable. Although a little musically
subdued, Rosenker, along with trumpeter Stratton, demonstrate what
fine talent the Des Moines Symphony has.

The concert ended with a grand performance of Ferde Grofe’s “Grand
Canyon Suite.”

Known primarily for this one work, Grofe was mainly an arranger and
orchestrator. What a fine one at that, for the “Grand Canyon Suite”
is luminous in its sound, so gorgeous that some of the mundane musical
material is easily overlooked.

Here Giunta and his orchestra shined, creating a series of radiant
timbres that were fascinating to hear.

Robert C. Fuller is a freelance music writer and composer from
Des Moines.