Comprising this year’s fellows of the Music Academy of the West, the Festival Orchestra season began with an evening of compositions written for dance, commencing with Richard Strauss’s “Dance of the Seven Veils” from Salome, a high-drama piece full of melodies reminiscent of the Near East. With a fluctuating tempo, sometimes somber and other times exalted, each section worked like master weavers at a loom to deliver a beguiling iteration of Strauss’s compelling work of art.

The evening also featured contemporary composer Gabriela Lena Frank’s “Three Latin American Dances,” a colorful musical journey influenced by Latin sounds. An orchestration begging to be danced to, the movements varied in tone from jovial to dark, and the combination of Amazonian rhythms, mariachi flair, and unique percussive sounds worked like a tropical storm that held the audience breathless until the vibrant finale.

Conductor Larry Rachleff infallibly executed Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring right from the ghostly opening bassoon solo. The piece, inspired by the vitality of youth, was perfect for these fellows to perform, as their own exuberance amplified the ardor eminent in Rite itself, and it’s rare to witness a performance so immersive. Engaging and exceptional, this concert set the bar as high as possible for the summer’s remaining concerts.


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