Review: Sparkling concert pays tribute to Mobley

Greenville NewsFull Review

By Paul Hyde: February 27, 2016

The musicians of the Greenville Symphony on Friday expressed their grief at the death of the orchestra’s executive director, Sherwood Mobley, the best way they know how: by pouring their hearts into that evening’s concert.

Has there ever been a more poignant opening to a Greenville Symphony chamber orchestra program than the one provided by the wistful strains of the “Intermezzo” from Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana”?

That piece, both mournful and serene, was a thoughtful, late addition to the concert at the Peace Center’s Gunter Theatre by conductor Edvard Tchivzhel.

A spotlight illuminated a flower spray on a music stand behind the timpani — the place Mobley occupied for 23 years before becoming executive director of the orchestra in 2014.

It was a moving tribute, handsomely played by the orchestra under Tchivzhel’s leadership. Tchivzhel added the short “Intermezzo” after learning that Mobley, 59, has passed away early Friday.

Before the concert, Greenville Symphony Association president Lee Dixon asked the audience to honor Mobley with a moment of silence.

Tchivzhel then dedicated this weekend’s three concerts to Mobley.

“Our hearts are broken today,” Tchizhel said. “I personally feel great pain. I knew Sherwood from my earliest days in Greenville.”

Noting that this weekend’s program of mostly 20th century French music was a notably “sunny” one, Tchivzhel asked the audience to remember the outgoing Mobley’s “magic smile” during the spirited concert.

One more performance remains of the program on Sunday afternoon. (Tickets: 864-467-3000)

Caroline Ulrich, the principal flute player with the Greenville Symphony, was the superb soloist in Ibert’s Flute Concerto.

The outer movements of the 1934 concerto present the flutist with an abundance of leaps, dancing figures and scampering scales — all designed to test a virtuoso’s technique. Ulrich negotiated the work’s formidable challenges with finesse and nimble self-assurance.

The concerto’s haunting second movement, meanwhile, showcased Ulrich’s pure, limpid tone.

Tchivzhel’s sparkling account of Rossini’s Overture to “L’Italiana in Algeri” (“The Italian Girl in Algiers”) spotlighted several brisk solos by Wendy Cohen (piccolo), Anthony Marotta (clarinet), Virginia Metzger (oboe) and Amy Yang Hazlett (bassoon).

Poulenc’s “Sinfonietta,” dating from 1948, had charm, wit and even a little sentimentality. It’s a piece of fickle moods: suave lyricism at the outset, a prickly second-movement scherzo, a third-movement nocturne and a tremendously playful finale. The musicians, under Tchivzhel’s baton, rendered the work with polish.

Ibert’s Suite Symphonique (“Paris”) closed the program in bumptious style. The 1930 work, with a unique combination of 28 instruments, offers six short vignettes of a hustling, bustling Paris.

It’s a droll piece, full of joie de vivre and gleefully raucous at times, with four percussionists joining the timpani player to add extra oomph to the proceedings. Throughout, there were excellent solos. The suite concludes with parade music that’s both wacky and exuberant. Tchivzhel led a performance of verve and gumption.

One can’t help but think that Mobley, always a jovial presence, would have enjoyed this concert enormously.

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