On Saturday inside the Erne Auditorium at Columbus North High School, a community of musicians, teachers, students and friends gathered for a concert by the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic.
The concert was part of a season centered around local musicians returning home. Featuring piano soloist Garrett Myers, Columbus native and student of Edward Auer in the IU Jacobs School of Music, the concert’s program highlighted the city’s tradition of musical excellence while reinvigorating staples of the Baroque and classical repertoire.
The first half of the concert comprised Handel’s “Water Music” Suite in D Major and Haydn’s “Surprise” Symphony No. 94 in G minor. The ensemble, led by music director and conductor David Bowden, used natural horns, which are instruments designed to emulate the sound of the modern french horn’s ancestor.
Horn players Jesse Clevenger and Mike Walker handled these uncommon instruments well, offering the audience an echo of what audiences in the 18th century might have heard.
The youthful exuberance that the ensemble displayed on the “Water Music” was nicely complemented by their more subtle performance of Haydn’s well-worn Symphony No. 94.
This symphony, like many of Haydn’s works, is known for its humor. But the orchestra’s task is quite serious: The piece is full of interpretive challenges. Bowden coaxed a delightful collection of characters and moods from the orchestra.
The string section was particularly impressive, executing intricate runs with clean virtuosity.
After intermission, the ensemble turned to Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21, now joined by Myers at the piano. Calm and modest in demeanor, Myers approached the concerto with a tender dexterity.
That said, his light touch grew assertive in the lower keys of the piano, lending conviction to his interpretation of this popular piece. The CIP was similarly versatile, moving easily between restraint and a rich, full sound.
Slight stumbles in the cadenza of the opening movement now seem insignificant in light of the exquisite andante movement, the highlight of the evening.
Here, Myers’ patient phrasing fully revealed his sophistication as an artist. The piece was met with an enthusiastic ovation from the crowded auditorium.
Myers followed the concerto with an encore, for which Bowden stepped down from the podium.
Bowden sat enrapt as he listened to Myers play Chopin’s Nocturne No. 20 in C-sharp minor. A pianist himself, Bowden was Chicago pianist William Phemister’s first student at Wheaton College. Myers, who graduated from Wheaton in 2010, was his last — a complete circle that seems appropriate for an evening that brought together the fresh with the familiar, the old with the new.
Elizabeth Newton is a graduate student in musicology in the Jacobs School of Music, and she plays saxophone in several ensembles in Bloomington. She holds a B.A. in Music and International Political Economy from the University of Puget Sound.
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