Fiery show closes Cascade Symphony season

  • By Dale Burrows For the Enterprise
  • Thursday, May 1, 2008 2:56pm

Talk about contrasting styles. Outlaw accordionist Murl Allen Sanders flashed fire, and Cascade Symphony thundered through Tchaikovsky’s Fifth. “Great Russian Romantic” – as the program at Edmonds Center for the Arts last Monday night titled itself – was a snowstorm of fireworks.

This amazing close to this season’s CSO schedule couldn’t have featured a more rousing introduction than guest lecturer Eric Hanson, Seattle Pacific University chair, Instrumental Music, and Thalia Symphony Orchestra Director. The man delivered a marvelously well-versed, impassioned overview of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony to get things going; and it was all pedal to the metal from there on.

Even the concert-opening “Variations on a Waltz” by shamefully neglected New Yorker composer, Jerome Moross (1913-1983) crowned the little red “Ridinghood Revisited” motif with the evening’s, overall Star Wars dimension. This, all too infrequently performed ballet ballad for song and dance, a la CSO, shrank the child’s fable to an emotional puddle swept over by a sea of tumultuous passions. Pity the big, bad wolf; celebrate the happy ending, BIG TIME.

How about things to come?

Fiercely individualist Northwesterner, composer-accordionist and featured guest artist, Murl Allen Sanders (1950), is the man.

This guy’s Accordion Concert No. 1, performed by him, fires rockets that will, one day, install the accordion next to other instruments, now comfortably in orbit with symphony orchestras. UW educated; with pop, rock, zydeco, country, jazz, blues and heaven knows what else as much a part of him as breathing, this lion headed lad wearing John Lennon sunglasses, more than held his own in CSO’s company with his trusty accordion. Doing things you wouldn’t think could be done with more than 20 pounds of keyboard strapped on, he went tit for tat and improvised. What could have been a cat and dog fight ended with him out there, by himself, on his own, just him and his accordion, thrilling us all with an infinity of possibilities. The accordion has arrived.

However, for sheer, Miltonic magnitude, nothing preceding could hold a candle to CSO, having taken in and letting loose all the internal struggle against fate of the tragic Russian who died in disgrace, penniless and either by his own hand, his brother’s or the cholera epidemic that was decimating much of St. Petersburg, 1893.

Tchaikovsky’s Fifth catches the Titanic grandeur of sweep and size of bipolarity’s two most serious extremes, sorrow and joy, agony and ecstasy, defeat and victory, life and death. Conductor, Miropolsky, characterized it as an exploration into “the soul’s most intricate complexities.” Rightly so.

And CSO didn’t miss a trick.

This masterpiece’s fourth movement, the Andante maestoso, played Allegro vivace and dismissed during the work’s early performances in public as insincere, even crude, paraded past anything approaching sentimentality. Soaring to the heights, fully mobilized, head held high, insistent, strident and with a stirring sense of conviction, this Fifth culminated with ECA on its feet applauding and CSO, either exhausted, or exhilarated, or both. A splendid conclusion to a celebrated season. Bravo, CSO at ECA; you’re A-OK.

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