Symphony Tacoma finished the 2022-23 season with a diverse and provoking program on Saturday, May 13 – themed Blues, Tangos and Rhapsodies. Saturday’s performance featured works by Florence Price, Claudio Constantini, and George Gershwin. The blending of genres, styles, and cultures was a celebration to conclude this concert season.
Sarah Ioannides led the orchestra with craft, and Symphony Tacoma sounded fantastic in Price’s rich scoring. Ethiopia’s Shadow… had vibrant colors, exciting string tremolos, artful solos. The work showcased the entire orchestra. Solos by concertmaster Svend Rønning and principal cellist Alistair MacRae filled the Pantages Theater with singing musicianship and warm vibrato. The audience enthusiasm for Price’s music was obvious in the applause and cheers from the audience. It is wonderful to see how concert culture, artistic significance, and social justice can combine in a performance.
The centerpiece of Saturday’s concert was the Concerto for Bandoneon and Orchestra by Claudio Constantini. Constantini was also the soloist in the concerto. Likely not an everyday instrument for most Tacomans, the bandoneon is a push-button accordion. The bandoneonist raises a leg on a platform, balances the middle of the instrument on the raised thigh, and uses both arms to expand and contract the bellows. All of this, while the player uses his fingers to press buttons that produce pitches, melodies, and chords. The bandoneon is a wonderful sight and incredible sound! The expressiveness and volume control Constantini plays with the bandoneon are virtuosic.
After intermission, Constantini returned as piano soloist for a concert favorite, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Rhapsody… obviously appealed to the audience, when some audience whoops and cheers followed Craig Rine’s famous opening clarinet scoops. The interplay between the piano solos and orchestra interludes were expertly timed under Ioannides’ leadership. The comfort of the jazz medium was obvious in Constantini’s playing.