In addition to new compositional voices, Spano is also quite fond of bringing his friends back for guest appearances. Pianist Jorge Federico Osorio has been featured frequently at Symphony Hall; his 2018 performances of the complete Beethoven piano concertos were highlights of the season. Thursday, he took the stage with the ASO in a dazzling performance of Manuel De Falla’s “Nights in the Garden of Spain,” in which the orchestra and piano soloist become paintbrushes, globing vivid color onto canvases to create bountiful garden scenes.
In the first part of the three-movement work, shimmering violin tremolo, hushed and timid, gives way to fecund orchestration and waterfall piano arpeggios. Through it all, even in the bouncy dance movement, the ASO’s playing remained delicate and light. Even when Osorio hammered away on the keyboard and the accompaniment rose to meet his intensity, the ensemble still maintained a careful fragility, bringing a tenderness to De Falla’s evocative music.
After Thursday’s intermission, Spano took a mixtape approach, presenting selections from Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet,” stringing together some of the most famous snippets from the ballet for nearly an hour of emotionally charged music. This greatest-hits approach took deliberate dedication and concentration from the orchestra, a commitment to not just running through the motions. The ASO’s effervescent, focused playing transformed the ballet. “Romeo and Juliet” was filled with lush, buoyant pizzicato; accompaniment from the ballet’s fight scenes blistered with combustible string ferocity; and the ensemble created delicious dynamic contrasts that kept the music tense and dangerous.
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
8 p.m. Jan. 11. $12-$88. Symphony Hall, 1280 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 404-733-5000, atlantasymphony.org.