Sunday, January 13, 2019 Thomas Wilkins conducted...with...ease, enthusiasm and sensitivity

Thomas Wilkins

Omaha World-Herald

Review: Omaha Symphony takes audience on musical adventure through 3 countries

By Drew Neneman / World-Herald correspondent

Jan 12, 2019

“3 Russians and 2 Frenchmen” may sound like the beginning of a joke, but in classical music circles, the names Maurice Ravel, Mikhail Glinka, Sergei Prokofiev, Claude Debussy and Igor Stravinsky represent some serious content.

At the Holland Center on Friday night, for the first of its two-weekend “Russian, French and American Tales” festivals, the Omaha Symphony presented these composers in a seriously successful program.

The Overture to “Ruslan and Lyudmila” by Glinka opened the festival. This less-well-known piece by the evening’s least-famous composer made up in flash what it lacked in reputation. Swirling energetic passages incorporated the entire orchestra and warmed up the audience’s ears with panache.

Thomas Wilkins, music director, conducted the orchestra with the ease, enthusiasm and sensitivity that Omaha has come to expect from the maestro.

The concert continued with “Danses sacrée et profane” by Debussy. Ann Hobson Pilot made her Omaha debut as the piece’s harp soloist.

Debussy’s unconventional harmonies and reimagined textures combined with Pilot’s dexterity for a dazzling display. Her speed and expressiveness on the harp strings were palpably human, bringing Debussy’s unique musical language to life. “Danses ” is not meant to tell any specific story, but the beguiling and sensual textures of the work bring the flavors of many human experiences to life. Ancient religious devotion and modern romance were made real enough to almost touch by the orchestra and Pilot’s performances.

Pilot performed again as a soloist for Ravel’s “Introduction et Allegro.” The selection had even more fingering acrobatics than the first harp feature. Pilot’s control and creativity, especially in the solistic passages, was exciting and moving. Pilot received an almost instant standing ovation.

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