Gerstein plays without flourish or embellishment, his fingers confidently winding through complicated barrages of notes with precision. While his technique is crisp and flawless, the notes are filled with a complex emotional depth. He isn’t simply playing what’s on the page; each note interprets the feeling and sentiment of the music.
The ASO last performed Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 at the beginning of the 2015 season, when it was paired in concert with a piece of 21st-century music to provide stability for the audience. Thursday night, the Fifth Symphony functioned as an enabler, underscoring the Romantic lushness of the evening.
The somewhat sinister beginning of the Tchaikovsky, with dark-hued clarinets egged on by low strings, made way for a light dance that included a complement of woodwinds, one of the ASO’s strongest sections. Soon, enough fire and brimstone emerged from the trumpets and pounding timpani to leave an edge of unease and disquiet. These sections of turbulence and confusion were brought to the fore, and Spano made sure the orchestra held nothing back.
After a long summer off, and in the midst of an endless spate of heat that makes September feel like July, the symphony is finally back in business. Dusting off symphonic hits is a time-tested way of beginning a new season. But for all the familiarity, it’s still oddly thrilling to see Spano start the season with “The Star-Spangled Banner,” quarter-turned to the audience, conducting in broad strokes above his head as he sings along with the crowd.
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
8 p.m. Sept. 20. Additional performances at 8 p.m. Sept. 22 and 3 p.m. Sept. 23. $33-$109. Symphony Hall, 1280 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 404-733-5000, atlantasymphony.org.
AJC’s new podcast: accessAtlanta
Looking for things to do in and around Atlanta? We have lots of ideas, and we’ll be sharing them in a new weekly podcast, with new episodes debuting Thursday mornings.
In an episode from last spring, listen to Robert Spano talk about his career with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra with AJC features reporter Bo Emerson. It is a revealing interview with the music director, whose career has spanned more than three decades.
>> accessAtlanta PODCAST: Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's Musical Director, Robert Spano
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