Virginia Symphony dances out the Forum season

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BY PETER HUMMERS, OUTER BANKS SENTINEL | Those lucky enough to sit in front of a symphony orchestra won’t soon forget the experience. The same goes for ballet audiences, and at the Outer Banks Forum final show of its 27th season, the former evoked the latter.

The dancing onstage was that of violin bows and the conductor’s baton, not terpsichoreans; but the music was appropriate. Guest conductor Miriam Burns led the orchestra through a program of dance music from around the world including a hoe-down, a tango, a habanera, a polka, a folk dance, and of course, a waltz.

These came from the pens of such as Aaron Copland (Rodeo), Peter Tchaikovsky (Swan Lake) and Bedrich Smetana (The Bartered Bride).

While Copland’s blue-jeaned “Hoe-Down” didn’t evoke the typical ballet, it nonetheless limbered up the musicians and audience alike, the former getting to show off some impressive moves with the piece that combined the traditional folk tunes “Bonaparte’s Retreat,” “Gilderoy” and “McLeod’s Reel” into Copland’s uniquely American vision.

Johannes Brahms’ “Hungarian Dance No. 5” was rescued from cartoons and Stymie’s harmonica version in The Little Rascals and assayed expertly, down to the tempo changes and volume variations, the orchestra playing together as a single organism.

Amilcare Ponchielli’s famous “Dance of the Hours” from the opera La Giocanda was similarly well-treated, allowing neither thoughts of Spike Jones nor dancing hippos and the like to sully the sublime musical experience.

Violin soloist Elizabeth Coulter Vondeheide performed Camille Saint-Saens’ Havanaise in E Major for violin and orchestra with serene control of its tricky passages, her eyes closed or cast down in concentration.

Two dances from Smetana’s delightful The Bartered Bride, a polka and a Bohemian furiant, teased the audience with the transition from the one to the other, and the beautiful waltz from Swan Lake lulled them with velvety Tchaikovsky magic.

Leroy Anderson’s “Blue Tango” and Percy Grainger’s Scottish pastiche Shepherd’s Hey rounded out the evening, which ended with the five movements of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s virtuosic Capriccio espagnol. The orchestra proved themselves equal to the caprice, for instance with the eccentric articulation in the “Scena e canto gitano,” in which the violins and violas imitate guitars.

It was a fine traditional coda to the Outer Banks Forum season, a spectacular culmination of the world-class concerts that went before, and a harbinger of excellence to come.

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