March 4th, 2010 11:14am

REVIEW: Odessa Philharmonic shows mastery of waltzes

by Gayle Williams

Who’d have thought that the most brilliant performance of Strauss waltzes and such we’ve heard in some time would come from a group of Ukrainians led by a Venezuelan-born American conductor! So it was when the Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra finished its concert Tuesday evening with a long set of music by Viennese waltz king, Johann Strauss Jr., under the baton of Hobart Earle, in his 17th season with the orchestra.

While the musicians started with a bold playing of the Overture to “Die Fledermaus,” this was not to be a complete line-up of Strauss chestnuts. The far less frequently heard “Where the Lemons Blossom” Waltz, Op. 364 was not only exceptionally charming, but this ensemble showed itself to have complete confidence and a real flair for the style.

Earle, who conducted the entire concert from memory and had an engaging style with the audience, showed off his orchestra’s polished and airtight ensemble as they performed real gems, such as the Egyptian March, Op. 335; Light of Heart – Fast Polka, Op. 319; Artists Life Waltz, Op. 316; and On the Hunt – Fast Polka, Op. 373. And, yes, a chestnut or two with Pizzacato Polka and a Thunder and Lightning Polka for good measure.

The program began with the equally joyful music of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92. It was a solid and enjoyable performance played with real spirit. Unfortunately, there were a few rough edges with lack of full control in the brass and winds with pitch disagreement. Even with a slightly smaller orchestra on stage, perfect for Beethoven, the ensemble diluted what should be clearly articulated rhythms and fast passages in the latter movement. The absolute genius of this symphony is the Allegretto, which is a touch of sublime amidst the ebullient music surrounding it. Never mind a couple smudges, this was music that deserves its applause.


ODESSA PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA. Hobart Earle, conductor. Reviewed March 2 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.