|Kathy Hollinger, Francis Wada and|
|Vocalist Michele Amato|
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how terrific Scott Lavender was as guest conductor. Lavender has an eclectic resume, but he currently works as Johnny Mathis' conductor and pianist. Mathis performed in Fort Myers earlier this year and CSO principal trombonist George Mancini was part of Mathis' band for the show. Mancini identified Lavender as a potential guest conductor for the CSO, and his instincts were spot on. Lavender immediately developed an easy rapport with the audience. He shared tidbits of information about the composers and works that added to my enjoyment of the music. (Katherine Caldwell gives a similar talk before each of the classical concerts, and I always find it enormously helpful.) Did you know that John Philip Sousa, master of the marches, aspired to be an operatic composer? Or that the 1812 Overture, which has become synonymous with Fourth of July concerts thanks to Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, has nothing at all to do with the United States? Tchaikovsky's inspiration for the composition was the French invasion of Russia. At the beginning of the overture, Lavender conspiratorially turned to the audience and said, "The French are coming." As the music got louder, he told us, "They're getting closer!" It was a nice touch.
At the end of the concert, I felt like I'd spent an evening with old friends. I can't wait for the classical season to get underway in November. Over the course of the season, we'll hear Gypsy Baron Overture by Strauss and Suite from the Firebird by Stravinsky and Symphony No. 5, Op. 64 by Tchaikovsky. The baton will be flourished by a different conductor at each concert, each of whom hopes to be selected as the new maestro of the CSO. It promises to be an exciting season.
NOTE: This article was published in Florida Weekly.