A well-oiled machine.
Maybe I mean “fine-tuned.” Either way, that’s what the Long Beach Symphony has become under music director Eckart Preu. Exhibit A could be the concert Saturday night at the Terrace Theater.
With Preu at the helm, the orchestra has developed the kind of lush, Romantic, Central European sound that he told me a year or so ago he wanted. And these are the best players in Southern California, which means in the world, regulars in the film and TV studios (when have you ever heard a bad note in a film score?) who can play anything. And they put that sound, that technique and that experience to the service of the music when they grace our stage.
The novelty on Saturday’s program, Lilian Elkington’s “Out of the Mist,” turned out to be an attractive, well-crafted and atmospheric eight minutes that provided an appropriate vehicle for that lush Romantic sound. It made one lament that Elkington early on gave up a promising music career for marriage and family; none of her other orchestral works has survived.
Roger Wilkie was greeted by rapturous hoots and hollers upon his entrance, which led one to believe that the Long Beach audience realizes how lucky we are to have him as our concertmaster. Whether in those aforementioned studios, sitting in the first chair with our orchestra, or stepping out as soloist, as he was here, he is one of the best violinists around.
And those many years as concertmaster served him well as soloist in the Brahms violin concerto. This is not the usual violin solo with orchestral accompaniment, but more like a symphony with a prominent violin part. Together, Wilkie and Preu created a magnificent performance, expressive and powerful. Wilkie has played this piece here before, and his performance has matured. He let Brahms’s great music speak for itself, while adding his own personal touches here and there; that little violin slide at the end of the second movement was a nice touch.
Speaking of expressive, and speaking of powerful; after intermission Preu led the orchestra in a rendition of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7 that showcased the orchestra’s sound to perfection. Preu has this music in his bones, and revealed himself as an adept interpreter of this marvelous score. Most effective was the scherzo, a Slavonic dance that had just the right amount of lilt. In spite of a little bobble in the ensemble toward the end of the trio, this was a highlight.
The orchestra responded gloriously. The strings were fabulous throughout, and the solo winds, particular Jenni Olson on flute and principal oboe Rong-Huey Liu, were spot-on. The horn section’s moments were especially thrilling.
Whether well-oiled or fine-tuned, it was another good night at the Long Beach Symphony.