A key element to making beautiful music is to have a good time while it’s happening.
Monday night, the University of Memphis Symphony Orchestra gave a concert with elements of fun, grace and virtuosity — and performers as well as audience were enjoying it all.
Pu-Qi Jiang, the director of the orchestra and principal conductor since 2000, led the orchestra first in Beethoven’s “Wellington’s Victory,” which the composer called “Battle Symphony.” It’s not a symphony, though, and it’s not about Wellington’s victory at Waterloo (the British field marshal won a few other battles, after all).
It’s a martial piece, however, and full of hooks and brio. It’s also a minor effort by the composer although it was hugely popular and a nice source of income for Beethoven.
And a lot of fun for the U of M orchestra to take on.
But the concert’s payoff was another Beethoven work, the truly memorable Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano in C major. It’s a gorgeous work (though less successful in the composer’s day) and gives a chance for three musicians to either blend beautifully or tear each other to shreds.
Happily, the three soloists — all U of M faculty members — communicated splendidly. Cellist Leonardo Altino put passion into his effort even as he exchanged glances with his wife, violinist Soh-Hyun Park Altino, who was countering with poise and precision.
On piano, Victor Santiago Asunción treated the Steinway like an old friend, showing, as he always does, a mastery of the instrument and love of what he does.
The three worked together with the sort of enthusiasm that elevated an already lovely work into a savory experience.
Bravo to the soloists, Maestro Jiang and the young orchestra’s dedicated players.