Soloists Highlight KC Civic’s Strengths (KC Metropolis Review)

By Jordan Buchholtz
Wed, Oct 14, 2015

The Kansas City Civic Orchestra gave a pleasant and enjoyable concert last Saturday evening. Opening with Sibelius’s Finlandia, the ensemble continued with Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp, and ended the concert with the mighty Brahms Symphony No. 2. Two soloists were presented for the Mozart concerto: harpist Rachel Brandwein, who was the winner of the 2014 Mu Phi Epsilon International Solo Competition, and Hannah Porter Occeña. Both of them were terrific assets to the orchestra and led the concerto with elegance and style.

Finlandia was a successful grandiose beginning. The brass section had a gratifyingly strong and bold sound in the opening. The hymn tunes were starkly defined. It took some time for the orchestra to settle, but after the first few bars, the music had a nice flow.

Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp in C Major, K. 299 was the highlight of the program.The sounds from soloists Brandwein and Occeña were always beautiful and fluid throughout, and each had their own moments to shine. Orchestras often have trouble staying quiet enough to hear a solo harp or flute, but the KC Civic Orchestra did not have this issue. The first movement had a bouncy and joyous character despite the slight pitch issues in the violins in the beginning. The second movement was slower and more serene while the soloists kept the music moving. The last movement returned to the exuberant character of the first movement. Overall, this concerto is not necessarily a thrilling piece, but Mozart’s style of writing portrayed gracefulness, which Brandwein and Occeña successfully mastered. The ensemble received a standing ovation and the audience was serenaded by a solo harp piece composed by Brandwein called Lost Melody for an encore.

The second half of the program was Brahms’s Symphony No. 2 in D Major. The first movement calls for a grand and majestic character, which did not fully come across in the orchestra. Instead, this movement was more calm and phlegmatic. The violins had pitch issues throughout this movement in the running scalar passages that went up to the high register. The second movement began with a wonderful melody by the celli, which set a warm and comforting mood. This movement was more riveting than the first; the orchestra had more excitement as the shifts in harmony became exaggerated. The best moments were when the music switched into the minor mode and when the ensemble’s sound increased to a loud dynamic. The orchestra definitely found the “graceful” tempo marking in the third movement. The momentum in the last movement picked up as the beginning tempo was faster and each instrument section had more notes to play. This wonderful energy was lost in the middle section when the ensemble was quieter, but the momentum returned toward the end. The last section was spirited and glorious, enough for someone to shout “Yeah!” between the final two chords!
Kansas City Civic Orchestra
The Breadth of Brahms
Saturday, October 10, 2015
Atonement Lutheran Church
9948 Metcalf Ave, Overland Park, KS