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Wednesday, November 26, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 17.0° F  Fog/Mist
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Trumpeter Ryan Anthony goes over the top at Concerts on the Square
Ryan Anthony
Ryan Anthony
Credit:Steve Roberts

Maestro Andrew Sewell's efforts to include a certain amount of classical music in the programs for this year's Concerts on the Square were weakly evident in the third of them, on July 9. It was mainly a show for the guest soloist, trumpeter Ryan Anthony, undoubtedly one of today's most spectacular virtuosi on his instrument.

After the finale to Rossini's "William Tell" Overture as throwaway opener, Anthony took over the first half. He glitzed his way into things with a showy hash of Jeremiah Clarke's so-called "Trumpet Voluntary" (once blamed on Purcell), hyped with florid ornamentation. Anthony's "substantial" solo was the not-too-long "Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra" by the obscure Soviet-Armenian Alexander Arutiunian, as tweaked by the Soviet-Ukrainian trumpet virtuoso Timofey Dokshitser. No better than warmed-over, low-grade Khachatourian, it allowed Anthony to demonstrate his coloristic range as well as dexterity.

Anthony's domination was assured by his playing directly into a microphone, with ear-splitting effect. The present amplification system is designed to blast its way into street conversation and noise around the fringes. For those further in, the sound approximates a rock concert for the functionally deaf. Consequently, one never actually hears the performers themselves directly, only what the amplification system projects of them.

This had a curious effect on the one serious "classical" element in the program: the final movement (only) of Dvorák's "Symphony No. 8." Precisely because there was such excessive multi-miking of the orchestra, one could hear individual details that would not come through in the normal acoustics of an indoor concert. Sewell came alive here, too, leading a bracing, beautifully contoured performance, played with remarkable vitality by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra players. We really should hear them do the entire work in normal conditions.

On the other hand, the amplification turned the deft but very different scoring of the Shaker melody variations from Copland's "Appalachian Spring" into something rather mushy.

Anthony took as his closing number that venerable old bandstand favorite "Carnival of Venice," but in gaudy variations with which the hammy Anthony milked the audience shamelessly. I don't recall standing ovations as all that common for these concerts, but Anthony received two, one at the end of each half.

As an encore, he played a pop tune, and then Sewell topped things off traditionally with a Sousa march, "El Capitan."

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