The Madison Symphony Orchestra completed its 87th annual subscription season over the weekend and you can make a strong case for the proposition that Music Director John DeMain saved the best for last.
The best in this case being featured soloist Naha Greenholtz, who offered a stunning performance in "Felix Mendelssohn's "Concerto in E minor for Violin and Orchestra."
All the more impressive because Greenholtz is, in real life, the MSO's concertmaster. We've heard her play a few solos with the orchestra during the past couple of years and, when she took the stage wearing an iridescent gown rather than her customary black slacks and top, we welcomed her warmly.
But, hey, it didn't take long for the audience to realize that Greenholtz can hold her own on any stage. Listening to her was a wonderful experience.
And, after the intermission, when Greenholtz resumed her concertmaster place in the orchestra and returned wearing her black on black concert garb, it was nice to be reminded that we actually are blessed with her talent at most of our concerts.
The Madison Symphony Chorus was also highlighted at the concert, singing excerpts from George Frederick Handel's "Solomon," and singing all of Sergey Rachmaninoff's "The Bells."
The Rachmaninoff piece was another impressive offering. The 125-member chorus had to learn the 36-minute composition in Russian. It is a poem consisting of four stanzas, each representing a bell for a different occasion, sleigh bells, wedding bells, alarm bells, and mournful bells.
Guest soloists Harold Meers, Hugh Russell, and Alexandra LoBianco added depth to the music. Taken together, the whole piece represented an incredible amount of work – work which paid off in excellence.
Finally, the chorus joined the orchestra to present Vaughn Williams "Toward the Unknown Region," a work which, I confess, I don't recall too much about because I was still trying to process the previous music.
In the fall, DeMain begins his 20th season as music director here. If last weekend was any indicator – and it is – he hasn't lost his energy or his touch.