At full force, the strings gave off an effervescence sometimes tinged with pain and sadness. The overarching theme, though, was celebratory. Frequent ensemble sections, awash in quiet color, had an electronic music feel reminiscent of the saturated soundscapes that permeate drone and ambient-leaning music. Parts of “The Green Fuse” were a distant cousin to Harold Budd’s “The Pavilion of Dreams.” In Wilson’s work, these ambient pauses served as grounding signposts that allowed the busy, always moving upper strings a chance to reflect. While this contrapuntal motion is the driving force in the piece, these quiet reflections along the way gave deep meaning to the 10-minute work.
Runnicles closed the program with an enchanting performance of Mendelssohn’ Symphony No. 3, “Scottish.” While much of the work was full of grand, sweeping music, the second movement really shined. It sprang forth with bucolic verve, the woodwinds passing around a skipping melody before passing it to the full orchestra. Where a lot of the music is serious and at times somber, this sense of carefree jubilation, echoes of which pop up in unexpected places elsewhere in the symphony, was delightful. Runnicles’ excellent control of dynamics and his care in shaping singing melodic lines held aloft a performance that easily could have gotten bogged down in grandiosity.
It’s always a joy to see Runnicles back at the podium, and his expert guidance of the Mendelssohn symphony did not disappoint. Here’s hoping we see a lot more of him next season, which looks like it will be a very busy one for new music director Nathalie Stutzmann. The Metropolitan Opera announced this week that Stutzmann will make her Met debut in 2023. These appearances will come toward the end of her first full season here in Atlanta (details of which should be arriving in the next few weeks). Add to this her duties in Philadelphia and the Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra, and it’s easy to see how her schedule is already jam-packed. It will be nice, then, for her to know that when engaging dynamic guest artists, she’ll only have to look within the orchestra.
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
Additional performance 8 p.m. Feb. 26. $23-$110. Symphony Hall, 1280 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 404-733-5000, atlantasymphony.org.