For as much force is generated by the inflated brass section, much of the "Leningrad" symphony really is a showcase for ASO's woodwinds. When, in the first movement, the woodwind brigade emerges to playfully contrast the stoic opening string melody, the section really never leaves the limelight. Oboist Elizabeth Koch Tiscione and English horn player Emily Brebach both excelled in solo passages, as did bass clarinetist Alcides Rodriguez and bassoonist Andrew Brady.
Of course, these woodwinds can only really be heard in the soft sections — except for the aggressively insistent E-Flat clarinet, played with buoyant joy by Ted Gurch, that bounds over the orchestral fray, leading the way with its thrillingly, pinch-toned timbre that is both toylike and filled with authority.
Thursday's program began with the cello-driven "Three Meditations From 'Mass'" by Leonard Bernstein, a concert-hall reworking of music from the composer's long-form, quasi-sacred work. The ASO performed another Bernstein re-composition — "Symphonic Dances From 'West Side Story'" — last week. Performed with guest cellist Johannes Moser, the meditations are at times spirited and avant-garde, and Moser amiably played through these spindly and disjointed bits of music. Moser was most effective in the more introspective passages, where his glassy, sparkling high register and warmly sonorous low end were a joy to hear.
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
8 p.m. Jan. 17 Additional performance at 8 p.m. Jan. 19. $28-$98. Symphony Hall, 1280 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 404-733-5000, atlantasymphony.org.
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