The Kansas City Chamber Orchestra opened its 29th season with works from a youthful trio of geniuses. The fresh, energetic concert in Helzberg Hall aligned nicely with the end-of-summer attitude of the holiday weekend. The orchestra pulled in an enthusiastic audience for Friday’s performance, despite competition with Irish Fest, the Royals and the Crossroads’ First Fridays.
The orchestra is composed mainly of members of the Kansas City Symphony and other regional professionals, and music director Bruce Sorrell certainly maximized their familiarity in the concert hall, leading a cohesive, responsive ensemble.
Giaochino Rossini’s Overture to “La Scala di Seta” was a lively beginning. Taken from his first opera, it demonstrated the qualities that make his music so attractive and invigorating, featuring a pastoral solo from the oboe and vigorous runs that seem to flow endlessly. The three cellos and two basses created an impressively resonant presence under the seamless statement exchange between the winds and strings.
The energy continued with Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony no. 1, written when he was 15. A bright opening statement pulsed with verve that proved difficult to maintain, though the movement’s closing efforts generated excitement, compelling some in the audience to applaud and whistle. Some of this lightness was lost when the accompanying figures over-shadowed the oboe melody, though they regained the buoyancy with the lively, leaping figures.
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Sorrell moved straight into the final movement with a robust start. An excellent pizzicato moment added a keen intensity under a pleasant clarinet solo, followed by a passage of authoritative bow strokes. The contrast of these two ideas, along with the ease of the wind playing and the brightness of the runs, created a refreshing rendition.
Perhaps one of the best-known child prodigies was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The orchestra ended the concert with a selection of mature Mozart (in his mid 30s) with his last published symphony, no. 41, nicknamed “Jupiter.” The work holds many unexpected moments, nuanced variations that Sorrell and ensemble displayed successfully, with emotive shifts between lightness and drama and carefully crafted space between statements that heightened the anticipation.
The work culminated in a marvelous final movement, Mozart luring the listener in with an easy four-note introduction that launched into a stimulating fugal passage. The runs emphasized the agility of the players and each entrance rang true, the line studded by chords from the horns and trumpets amidst the blossoming winds, Sorrell leading a rousing closing statement.