In her one solo turn, the beautiful “Pie Jesu,” Strebel’s velvet voice was backed only by organ, while the assembled symphony musicians waited to fill in the singing gaps with a quasi-call and response. Though it was Strebel’s only role in the production, she made an indelible impression.
Earlier in the evening, ASO flutist Christina Smith moved to center stage, performing Andre Jolivet's "Concerto for Flute and Strings." Smith has a deeply resonant tone, sparkling and clear on the surface but with a luxurious richness and sustain. She layered this sound atop an orchestral accompaniment full of 1950s modernism; packed with sharp angles and pointy edges, the strings function less as a straightforward accompaniment than as a sparring partner.
During the piece, Smith bobbed and weaved through a vertiginous melody that at times seemed like composed improvisation. The disjunct melodic lines painted Smith’s flute as a modern dancer, an energetic contortionist more than happy to underline the vast compositional evolution showcased in the night’s program. Faure’s “Requiem,” written in 1888, is a world away from the Jolivet.
Runnicles began the evening, and the study in French composers, with Debussy’s “Nocturnes,” a three-movement work in which each section is a distinct sound painting. The gossamer string chords and the cautious woodwinds of the first movement give way to the whippoorwill speed and playfulness of “Fetes.” To close the short work, Debussy evokes a siren song. Thursday, the women of the ASO Chorus sat in for these otherworldly creatures, spinning a haunting, and enduring, melody behind the orchestra.
Donald Runnicles conducts Debussy, Jolivet and Faure
8 p.m. May 25. Additional performance at 8 p.m. May 27. Symphony Hall, 1280 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta. 404-733-5000, www.atlantasymphony.org.
IN OTHER NEWS:
A 60-second crash course in manners. Video by Jennifer Brett