‘Vive le France’ turns into ‘Ole!’

‘Vive le France’ turns into ‘Ole!’
Concerts on the Square

Having been a constant cheerleader for the discovery-like nature of Andrew Sewell’s programming, it’s hard to serve up even a mild criticism. But for the fourth of the thirty-second annual Concerts on the Square Wednesday evening, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra‘s maestro may have gone a little too subtle.

It was a thoroughly delightful evening of well-known and off-the-beaten-path selections that were mostly Spanish-inspired but written by Frenchmen. The opening “Espana Rhapsody” of Chabrier is principally a colorfully splashy affair that cuts through the ambient noise and activity of the 20,000+ auditors, the three selections from Faure’s “Dolly Suite” couldn’t help but suffer, even though the sound system is probably as good as it’s going to get. Believe me, I get it: This is not the Capitol Theater, and at such a gathering there is more of an atmosphere of festivity than focused listening. After all, Mozart himself was annoyed on occasion when the nobility would chat during his outdoor serenades—and he didn’t get amplification or telecasts!

Then again, one can hope that for those new to cellist Karl Lavine’s gifts, a few are now inspired to hear him with the WCO or MSO indoors this fall season. For now, we enjoyed him in the charming “Suite Rococo” of Gretry.

The second half opened with the final two movements of Ravel’s “Rapsodie Espagnole.” As had been the case all evening, Sewell’s musicians played with polished joy. Next came three movements from Bizet’s “Petite Suite” (what, no Carmen?), and finally a true crowd pleaser: Ravel’s “Bolero.” It is a work that, as the years have passed, I find little interest in hearing on recording … but always enjoy in a live performance. Last night was no exception. The only dark cloud on the horizon this night was to realize there are but two Wednesday nights left on the Square … don’t miss a chance to soak up some special summer sounds!