BWW Review: SEASON FINALE: WEST SIDE STORY at Des Moines Symphony: A Beautiful Evening of Storytelling
The season finale for the Des Moines Symphony is always a bittersweet concert. Going into it, there is the joy of seeing the amount of time some of the symphony members have been involved, which this year included a musician celebrating their 50th season. It was also heartwarming seeing Maestro Joseph Giunta's family come and honor his 30th season with the symphony. Then there is the bittersweet part of the night where we say goodbye to musicians who are playing their last concerts with the symphony. My favorite part of the season finale is that it usually features some of the seasons best music, and the concert on May 18 was no different.
While every piece played was done beautifully, I want to go over a few highlights of the evening for me. The first was Phillipe Quint performing Erich Wolfgang Korngold's "Violin Concerto in D Major." If you go to the symphony, make sure to read the performance notes for each piece. As I sat listening to the concerto, I found myself thinking it sounded like it could have been pulled from the score of a movie. As I read the notes later, I found that it was based off some of Korngold's film scores. I was surprised to see how quickly Quint was featured in the piece. His playing was effortless. I felt as he played, he was telling a story with his music. During the times he wasn't playing I appreciated seeing him taking in the music playing all around him. I felt the beauty of Korngold's "Concerto" was displayed during the slower second movement. The mix of Quint with harpist Erin Brooker-Miller was breathtaking.
As the symphony brought their Leonard Bernstein celebration to a close, it wouldn't have been right to not feature what is probably his most known work, "West Side Story." The audience was hooked from the beginning of the piece. There was a tiny moment of joyous laughter from the first snap during the prologue. Bernstein's musical brilliance was seen in the orchestrations of "Somewhere." I found absolute beauty in having the piece start with a small cello solo and build up to the full symphony. It wouldn't have surprised me if there wasn't a dry eye in the house as the song built. Part of what I love about going to the symphony is seeing Maestro Joseph Giunta's interpretation of the music. From the "Prologue" to the Finale" you could see him taking on the weight of being a storyteller with the music. I noticed this especially towards the end as the music moved into "I Have a Love" and the "Finale." I felt that had I not known the story going into the night, I would have had an idea of it once the last note was played.
The symphony closed the evening as well as their season with "The Pines of Rome" by Ottorino Respighi. Once and a while, the symphony plays something that you've heard before but have never put a name or composer with the piece. This happened during the first movement "The Pines of Villa Borghese". I was familiar with the movement thanks to the show "Blast." I enjoyed getting to hear the parts I was familiar with in their original arrangement. What I enjoyed most about "The Pines of Rome" is how it shows that no matter how nice of a sound system you may have, it can't beat or even come close to a live performance. There were some amazing movements, that would have been difficult to capture in a recording of the music. The first was during when you heard a trumpet playing softly in the background during the second movement as though it was off in the distance. As we moved to the third movement, there were moments that heavily featured the low strings and low brass. It was so strong you could feel the vibrations from the music they were making. In the final movement, there were instrumentalist towards the back of the audience playing that gave the full sense of the music surrounding you.
While this season may have come to a close, there are still multiple opportunities this summer to catch a live performance of the Des Moines Symphony. They will be continuing their yearly tradition of Yankee Doodle Pops, and new this summer is the Water Works Park Pops Series. To find out more information on these, or future opportunities to listen to the amazing Des Moines Symphony, visit https://dmsymphony.org/