ON Scene: SSO opener leaves no questions of progress | SteamboatToday.com

ON Scene: SSO opener leaves no questions of progress

Margaret Hair

— The acoustics in the Strings Music Pavilion are amazing, which can be good or bad depending on how much the performer wants every note and every nuance to reach every seat.

For the Steamboat Springs Orchestra, the Pavilion’s acoustics swing heavily toward the favorable side of that balance, bulking up a season opener Saturday that took on repertoire rarely considered by an ensemble of its size.

In the past year, the orchestra has embraced a schedule that forces it to function as a professional ensemble, with just a few practices before each performance – and with music that can’t be thrown together at the last minute. Where last year’s season opener showed some difficulties with that system (the performance was strong overall, but had some ensemble issues), most of those problems were gone Saturday.

Schubert’s “Overture in D” was a solid, bright opener, and the orchestra met all its cheery, “Italian style” requirements.

Principal clarinetist Gary Foss took the spotlight next, with a capable handling of Rossini’s “Introduction, Theme and Variations for Clarinet and Orchestra.” In some spots, the venue’s unforgiving acoustics revealed control issues in the clarinet showpiece that might have gone unnoticed in a larger hall. But Foss’ performance left no question that he can play this piece – which is, obvious to anyone who has heard it, not easy.

The concert’s centerpiece was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (the “Eroica” symphony), best known for ushering in classical music’s Romantic era without any foreseeable reason or warning. “Eroica” is, as most symphonies are, long and complex. And for the casual classical concert attendee, that can be daunting. This is where the orchestra’s music director, Ernest Richardson, comes in, giving a lengthy but never boring interpretation of the piece’s importance and implications.

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There are plenty of reminders about Steamboat’s size in the town’s recreational options. Bars close on a version of bar time that’s half an hour earlier than everywhere else in the world, you’re lucky to find more than one movie you want to see at a time on local screens, and you’d be hard-pressed to find entertainment on a weekday night that extends beyond Snow Bowl.

The Steamboat Springs Orchestra is not one of those reminders. Instead, it’s an ensemble that, after a few rebuilding years, is capable of taking on the staples of symphonic repertoire.