To conclude a concert season that was atypical to say the least, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra offered scores of Mozart and Beethoven with Stravinsky’s neoclassical homage to his predecessors as a charming centerpiece. At the podium was CSO assistant conductor Andrés Lopera, and the opulent Ohio Theatre was peppered with a small live audience, modestly capped at 300 guests.

Andrés Lopera conducts the Columbus Symphony Orchestra
© Randall Schieber

A declamatory opening marked the beginnings of Beethoven’s overture to The Creatures of Prometheus, soon melting away into material lyrical and noble. Music of ebullience and energy rounded off the balance of this all-too-brief curtain raiser. Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite made for a sensible contrast, classical in its economy and design but spiked throughout with wonderfully piquant dissonances. Solo passages from concertmaster Joanna Frankel were finely played and further heightened one’s attention in the opening Sinfonia.

A languid oboe solo highlighted the subsequent Serenata, an inward moment amidst the general vivaciousness of the work. Principal bass Rudy Albach’s humorous passage in the penultimate Vivo movement added much charm and character, pointing in due course towards the bright and brilliant closing moments. Throughout the suite, however, one wanted lighter, airier textures to further draw out the element of dance (Pulcinella is a ballet, after all) and enhanced clarity to Stravinsky’s rhythmic complexities.

Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony is certainly a choice selection with which to close a concert season, and it was here the ensemble was at their finest. Lopera addressed the audience to express his gratitude to have arrived at this moment, with this work being a symbol of optimism after so many difficult months. The spacious Allegro vivace offered nearly operatic drama in its continual flux between weighty pathos and the delicately lyrical. The slow movement served as a concentrated study in refinement and expression, a detailed reading given with loving care. 

Lopera drew out maximal dynamic contrast in the Menuetto, starting at barely a whisper, and crisply accentuating the rhythmic gestures. The majestic fugue which closes presents considerable technical challenges to any orchestra that attempts it, and these musicians negotiated matters admirably well. While there was great drive and intensity propelling the music forward, it was joy above all that radiated from the stage, closing the performance in the highest of spirits.