Symphony review: Aldridge brings DSSO audience to its feet


Erin Aldridge was providing a dazzling display of artistry as she worked through the intricacies of Tchaikovsky’s challenging Violin Concerto in D Major Saturday night at Symphony Hall.

As conductor Dirk Meyer brought the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra to a vibrant crescendo, Aldridge ended her last note with a majestic flourish of her bow. The audience immediately burst into applause and soon rose to its feet for a thundering ovation.

Aldridge took her bow and then, after allowing the applause to briefly continue, she and Meyer gently reminded the audience that there was still more of the piece to be played.

Duluth audiences enjoy guest artists and clearly have embraced more than a few, but having a homegrown virtuoso display her art is something special.

The opening night audience clearly loved Aldridge, and it was easy to see why, so their breach of concert protocol was easily forgiven.

Her gorgeous solo section featured high notes that soared into the stratosphere over the enraptured audience. There was a nice moment where Aldridge finished a long passage and bobbed her head for a moment in time with the swelling orchestra.

As the piece continued after its impromptu break, I became aware I had forgotten to pick up my pen and pad to continue scribbling notes, and was just sitting there enjoying the music — and smiling.

When the concerto was officially over, Aldridge’s fellow musicians joined in the ovation to bring her back on stage, where we were treated to an ethereal encore in tribute to a pair of the symphony’s benefactors.

The 2017-18 opening evening was devoted to the “Revolution” half of the season’s “Revolutions & Reformations” title, and began with Meyer once again incorporating a contemporary gem from South America into the program.

Miguel del Águila’s “The Giant Guitar” does not, to the dismay of some, feature a giant guitar. The title refers to the composer’s conception of his native continent as a giant guitar.

Opening with Janell Kokkonen Lemire’s harp playing out the open strings of the guitar, the flutes took up a dance medley reminiscent of the Andes. This very intense and energetic piece ended with a proverbial bang.

During intermission Aldridge appeared in the audience, being embraced by friends and admirers before taking a seat for a brief busman’s holiday.

The second half of the evening was devoted to the Duluth debut of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 12, which consists of four continuous movements (so no risk of accidental applause) describing the October Revolution of 1917.

Meyer took microphone in hand to introduce the piece that took the “Revolution” theme the most explicitly, explaining the specifics of the story Shostakovich was telling in his music, including how the composer musically worked his “name” into the finale.

As a rhetorician I find the idea of being subversive through music absolutely fascinating. But while Bob Dylan wrote songs for revolution, he had the advantage of lyrics. Shostakovich uses motifs and “honors” Lenin by giving his theme over to the cellos and basses.

With this understanding planted in our minds, it was not surprising the piece came across as sinister and ominous, not to mention strangely compelling, concluding in a finale that had the sounds of the percussion section exploding off the walls of Symphony Hall.