Review: Oktoberfest Concert Both Warm and Dazzling

Greenville NewsFull Review

By Paul Hyde: October 8, 2016

As classical music Oktoberfests go, the Greenville Symphony Chamber Orchestra’s concert Friday night was pleasingly festive, with hearty Brahms, jovial Beethoven and glowing beer on tap.

The program of all-German music at the Peace Center’s Gunter Theatre opened with Handel’s “Music for the Royal Fireworks” in an urgent and boisterous interpretation by conductor Edvard Tchivzhel.

In his introductory remarks, Tchivzhel drew attention to the 1749 work’s origins as a “bombastic” piece written in honor of George II and to be played outdoors with fireworks.

In the Gunter Theatre, the pyrotechnics were all in the orchestra. Tchivzhel elicited suitably pointed and assertive playing from the ensemble.

Tchivzhel’s orchestra doesn’t use Baroque period instruments, but the maestro favored the unsentimental approach and speedy tempos often associated with today’s historically informed performances.

Indeed, in the irresistible allegro section of the Overture, Tchivzhel seemed to push his musicians to the brink, but they responded marvelously.

It was all quite dazzling and notably forceful — maybe even overpowering for some tastes — in the intimate Gunter Theatre, with the high-pitched piccolo trumpets adding a brilliant luster to the music. The excellent trumpet players were Kevin Lyons, Phil Elkins and Gary J. Malvern.

Brahms’ “Variations on a Theme of Haydn” brought romantic warmth and grace into the musical landscape. Tchivzhel offered a vigorous account of the work, and there was grandeur and majesty in the return of the familiar theme at the end.

Next was Tchivzhel’s spirited and sinewy rendition of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8. Tchivzhel established a headlong momentum particularly in the outer movements for a satisfying conclusion to the concert.

But that was not all: As a coda to this Oktoberfest celebration, Thomas Creek Brewery once again offered a complimentary beer-tasting in the lobby.

Not doubt everyone departed refreshed.

One more performance remains of the program, 3 p.m. today (Sunday) at the Peace Center’s Gunter Theatre. For tickets, call 864-467-3000 or visit the website www.peacecenter.org.

For the latest in local arts news and reviews, follow Paul Hyde on Facebook and Twitter: @PaulHyde7.