The Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra presented an outstanding concert of Bach and Bruckner at St. Mary's Cathedral on Tuesday evening. The program consisted of Bach's Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C minor (BMV 1060) and Bruckner's Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major (Original Version, edited by Haas). Principal violinist Dawn Carter and principal oboist Brad Hochhalter teamed up as soloists for the Bach; the entire orchestra girded its loins for the Bruckner. Huw Edwards gave crisp directions, and the results were smashing.
Carter and Hochhalter sailed smoothly with elegance through the Bach concerto, and each movement elicited applause from the audience. Carter and Hochhalter seamlessly traded the lead back and forth. Carter used fleet fingering to whip through the fast and tricky passages of the third movement, managing it all with aplomb. Hochhalter maintained a beautiful tone throughout and matched Carter perfectly.
I was surprised by how well the Bach sounded, especially the pizzicato in the strings. I thought that the acoustics at St. Mary's might muddy up the waters. Fortunately, Edwards kept everything under control and didn't let the liveliness of the church nave make the crescendos too loud.
I moved to the balcony to absorb Bruckner's monumental Fifth Symphony. The orchestra sounded magnificent and glorious, especially during the massive crescendos. The very warm temperature in the building caused some of the men to shed their suit jackets, and the heat might have caused a few flaws in intonation. To its credit, the orchestra wisely re-tuned after the second movement. Also, the brass section never overwhelmed the strings, and the overall effect of the performance was impressive.
Again, Edwards chose excellent tempi that worked with with the building's acoustics. Of particular note were the pauses that allowed the huge chords to decay before the next passage began. The orchestra sounded like an organ, just the way Bruckner would've liked it.
The orchestra was augmented by a couple players from the Oregon Symphony: Erin Furbee in the violin section and tubist Ja'Ttik Clark. I like their spirit of collaboration.