On scene: Steamboat Springs Orchestra finale | SteamboatToday.com

On scene: Steamboat Springs Orchestra finale

Margaret Hair

Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony is optimistic, but it’s not outright joyful – Tchaikovsky was a Romantic, and even his most triumphant work becomes that way through tense emotion and occasional melancholy.

But when Steamboat Springs Orchestra Music Director Ernest Richardson broke into a broad smile during the final movement of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth during the orchestra’s season finale concert Sunday, it was hard not to smile with him.

With a one-piece program and a group of more than 50 musicians donating their time and talent, Sunday’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth brought with it all the optimism that characterizes the piece, and showed what a classical music concert can be: emotional and accessible.

Classical music sometimes gets a bad rap for being stuffy, or worse, unnecessary. That’s never been a fair assessment, and there’s nothing to say it can’t be overturned. That’s because a piece like Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony is entertainment on its most basic level – it’s based on a simple theme, but more than that, it’s based on feeling and experience.

With the right energy, a 100-plus-year-old symphony can feel new. That kind of renewal is difficult to pull off with a small-town orchestra staffed by players who are not getting paid.

But our shared, dicey economic situation gives audiences an opportunity to have something in fine and performing arts that we didn’t have before: it levels the playing field, takes away any sense of higher, more important forms of entertainment. It makes all art pop art – pieces that have the same cause and same affect for everyone who sees them – which is the way it should be.

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Sunday’s orchestra concert – from the bold performance of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth on through an encore of John Williams’ “Flight to Neverland” from the movie “Hook” – showed what that leveled playing field can sound like, offering solid performances of timeless works that retain their power no matter what the world is doing.

A recession can’t rob Tchaikovsky of the tortured personal life that drove his music – he beat Wall Street to the punch on that one. That recession can, however, rob performing arts organizations of their ability to share those works.

If the Steamboat Springs Orchestra can find a way to continue performing and to continue offering those performances at affordable ticket prices, the ensemble will have tapped into one of the great opportunities offered by hard times.

– Margaret Hair, 4 Points