Diverting program from Shinik Hahm
The program consisted of Barber, Haydn and Shostakovich.
By ROBERT ROLLIN
YOUNGSTOWN -- The season's third Youngstown Symphony Orchestra concert at Powers Auditorium took place Saturday night under the baton of talented Korean guest conductor Shinik Hahm. Hahm presented an interesting program, whose high point was a stirring rendition of the Shostakovich Symphony No. 5.
The symphony was composed in 1937 after the terrible reaction to Shostakovich's opera, "Lady Macbeth from Mtsensk District," when Stalin reviled the composer publicly and in print, labeling him a "formalist," and the music "bourgeois and modern" -- the most derogatory terms in communist parlance. Shostakovich completed his Fourth Symphony in the wake of this criticism, but had to shelve it for more than 25 years. He immediately wrote the Fifth, which was a tremendous success and reinstated him in party circles.
The opening Moderato is relatively slow and has a dotted rhythm akin to the classical French overture. The angular theme is presented in high violins first, next by the brass, and with a harp ostinato accompaniment. Hahm and the symphony played the movement with poise and precision. The dark-colored dialog between low-register violas and cellos was impassioned, and the blatantly intense horn entries added fresh and abrasive qualities. The substantial movement's power comes from the gradual accelerando and the periodic long and massive growth to thick tuttis. All this was poised and powerful in the symphony's fine performance. Principal flutist Kathleen Schott's solos were especially lovely as well.
The second movement, Allegretto, seems like a neoclassical minuet, and had a delicate solo by concertmaster Calvin Lewis, scherzolike pizzicato accompaniment, some nice low double reed passages held in relief, and effective soloistic passages in xylophone, trumpets and oboe.
The slow movement, Largo, features a predominating string texture at its opening, some fine flute writing, more passionate string writing accompanied by dark timpani rolls, and a powerful climax. The transparent use of harp and glockenspiel, the interesting doubling of tremolo violins against short xylophone sounds, the high cello tune supported by low-register violas all gave the movement interest and color.
The final Presto is perhaps the most famous movement. It is a powerful marchlike piece that sweeps away the listener with its intense brass passages. The three trombones, tuba and accompanying percussion were especially wonderful, lending power and support to the tuttis, and helping to shape an excellent performance. The entire orchestra sparkled.
The first-half performance of the Haydn Symphony No. 49 was somewhat less effective. The opening Adagio lacked precision in downbeat synchronizations, and the ensuing contrapuntal Allegro, the necessarily powerful violin entrances. The low strings were a bit too ponderous and predominating. The remaining two movements were very effective.
Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings was memorably expressive, but Hahm's phrasing seemed a bit too disjointed, restraining some of the piece's intensity.