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Robert Gutter, Music Director of the Philharmonia of Greensboro, has a growing reputation for bringing in outstanding Eastern European talent as soloists with his community orchestra. An e-mail tip hinted that he had done it again for their February 28 concert, replacing a vocalist who had absented herself for higher fees with an outstanding violin virtuoso fresh from her tour of the Northeast including New York.
With a huge rich tone that easily filled Guilford College's Dana Auditorium and spectacular technique to match, Aiman Musakhodzhayeva (http://aiman.astanainfo.kz/eng/biogr.htm [inactive 7/04]) delivered a white-hot performance of Lalo's delightful Symphonie espagnole, in D Minor, Op. 21. Eschewing the bad tradition of lazy fiddlers, she gave the full five-movement version, restoring Lalo's lovely Intermezzo. Gutter secured a well-balanced and stylish accompaniment from his ensemble despite being short in the viola, cello and doublebass sections. The woodwinds were fine, and the brasses were much better than on previous occasions. The few rough spots may have resulted from loss of rehearsal time due to the recent storm.
After the complete Lalo came further treats. A Baldwin was rolled out for an unidentified accompanist, and Musakhodzhayeva burned up her strings with a fiery performance of Saint-Saëns' "Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso,"* followed by an extensive medley of hits from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess that included even the "Jazzbo Brown" episode!
With those aforementioned shortages in the low strings, there were limits to how much richness a leader could obtain, but guest conductor Matthew Troy, a Masters candidate at UNCG and Gutter's student, did wonders in balancing and in eliciting stylish phrasing in Rimsky-Korsakov's Tsar Saltan Suite, Op. 57. The evocation of rocking waves at sea in the second movement was memorable.
After intermission, Gutter also led a vital and idiomatic performance of Borodin's too-seldom-programmed Symphony No. 2, in b Minor. The horns were particularly successful in the filigree of the fast paced scherzo. The violin sections played with good ensemble throughout, and the woodwinds were very reliable. This community orchestra delivers a surprisingly good experience for its audiences, for free. It is one of a number of local musical organizations sponsored by the City Arts Division of the Greensboro Parks and Recreation Department.
*Edited 3/4/04 to correct first encore, originally listed as Zigeunerweisen, by Sarasate. We are grateful to John Gooch for setting the record straight.