Symphony’s ‘Hometown Talent’ performance highlights beginners to the seasoned musicians

the recent “Hometown Talent” concert presented by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra at The Commons was a vivid exhibit of the wealth of musical talent in Columbus from its origins to the present and into the future.

Showcasing musicians who are just starting their musical careers to those who are beginning to make an impact on the music world today and to those who have left a lasting legacy in their music, the concert was a delightful collaboration of talent, youthful exuberance and mature musicianship. The audience was both delighted and amazed by the high level of achievement evidenced by these fine musicians.

The concert began with two movements from Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, D. 759 “Unfinished” composed by Franz Schubert. A familiar orchestral work to most audiences, the real treat of the piece was that it was played with students from the Andrews String Orchestra performing side-by-side with the established musicians of the symphony.

Not many young people who are just developing and perfecting their skills as musicians get the opportunity to perform this work as well as perform it under the guidance and tutelage of veteran artists and outstanding young conductor such as Josh Aerie. Working in close collaboration, the orchestra and Andrews String Orchestra presented the well-known theme of the first movement with great control and beautiful phrasing.

Displaying the distinct lightness and buoyancy of Schubert’s orchestral style, the two movements were conducted by Aerie with appropriate delicate precision, although hampered at times by some intonation issues. It was fun to watch the symphony members occasionally glance at their younger counterparts and flash them a smile of approval after a particularly intricate passage. The young musicians left the stage at the end of the number to affirming and lasting applause.

The concert’s second piece, Andante in C for Flute, K. 315 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, featured orchestra member Rebecca Zhu as flute soloist. Zhu displayed a light but warm tone that was occasionally covered by the orchestra. This did not detract from the overall delightful rhythmic interplay between the soloist and orchestra that highlighted the strong rapport between Ms. Zhu and Maestro Aerie.

Her cadenza at the end of the piece was stylistic and lovely.

This was followed by the introduction of two more Columbus performers Samantha Johnson-Helms and Kylie Stultz-Dessent, featured clarinet soloists for the afternoon. Concerto No. 1 for Two Clarinets, Op. 35 by Franz Krommer instantly electrified the audience with its brisk tempo, confident and aggressive articulation by the CSO and the superb performance of the two soloists.

Playing in tandem with the dance like grace of synchronized swimmers, Johnson-Helms and Stultz-Dessent bobbed and weaved their way through their solo passages, providing the audience with both an aural and visual musical interpretation. Playing flawlessly through many intricate melodic patterns with great dynamic sensitivity and exquisite phrasing, the two clarinetists enjoyed their performance so thoroughly that they occasionally smiled at each other at the end of a particularly difficult moment acknowledging their own achievements.

The two worked so well in their collaboration that at times it felt as if only one person was performing. The symphony provided an outstanding accompaniment to their virtuosity, never overplaying them and working through the conducting of maestro Aerie to provide them with great rhythmic support and impeccable timing. Each of the three movements of this work were very well done and had such a positive effect on the audience that the performers received a standing ovation and the soloists were called back for a second bow.

The final composition of the afternoon, Concerto in E-flat Major for Alto Saxophone, Op. 109 by Alexander Glazunov brought to the stage the 2019 winner of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s Youth Concerto Competition. Alex Farrar, son of Greg and Andria Farrar, is a senior at Columbus North High School looking to pursue a degree in saxophone performance.

If the performance that he gave with the symphony is truly indicative of his abilities, then he has a great future ahead in his chosen career path. The 17-year-old musician played with a beautiful, well-supported tone that was clear, warm and uniform throughout the full of range of his instrument’s pitch and dynamics.

His intonation was sure even in the most rhythmically-challenging passages that he played with great style and appropriate articulation. Again, the orchestra provided him with outstanding support while never overpowering him. The many abrupt changes of time from fast to slow and slow to fast were handled brilliantly in another successful collaboration of soloist and Aerie’s precise conducting.

The audience again responded with a quick standing ovation and prolonged applause bringing this concert to an outstanding conclusion.

J. Kevin Butler is a graduate of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and was a high school choral director for more than 20 years. He is currently director of music for the First United Methodist Church of Columbus.