Symphony Arlington concludes season on high note

With the help of world-renown pianist Antonio Di Cristofano, the local orchestra puts on a show for the ages

Keven Costlow

Symphony Arlington concluded its 2016-17 season Thursday night at the Arlington Music Hall with every indication that the best is yet to come.

An enthusiastic crowd was treated to a variety of styles of music, as the orchestra left no stone unturned in their repertoire.

The evening began with Richard Wagner’s “Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg,” a strong, crisp number that drew enthusiastic applause.

In between the pieces, conductor Robert Carter Austin regaled the audience with stories about the music, which were almost as entertaining as the music itself.

Symphony Arlington (Photo: Symphony Arlington)

He pointed out that the second selection, Claude Debussy’s “Afternoon of a Faun” was actually about a mythological half-man, half-goat creature. The music itself -- one of Debussy’s most familiar works -- was a smooth, free-flowing work.

As an added attraction, the Orchestra did a familiar version of a piece by composer Leroy Anderson. Anderson -- best known for composing the Christmas carol “Sleigh Ride” -- also wrote “Old MacDonald,” which everyone had fun with.

The arrangement of Old MacDonald had a full set of sound effects, which added to the work. In a fast-paced piece like this, it’s very hard to hit every sound effect right, but the rhythm section never missed a beat.

The last selection before the intermission was Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Selections from The Gadfly,” the music from a 1955 motion picture of the same name. The first movement was dramatic and suspenseful (befitting a spy movie), while the rest of the piece touched on a variety of styles, from fast to slow and from brassy to soft and soothing.

Pianist Antonio Di Cristofano (Twitter photo)

After the intermission, guest pianist Antonio Di Cristofano was brought out to perform Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Concerto No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra in C Minor, Opus 18.” Di Cristofano has performed all over the world, and he quickly taught a lesson on how to play World Class Piano.

At least a dozen times in the piece, Di Cristofano was challenged by several crashing runs that would test the dexterity of any pianist.

But time after time, his flying fingers were up to the task. It was the perfect way to conclude the concert, and the season.

Symphony Arlington has long tried to shed its image as The Best Kept Secret in Arlington. The new season begins Oct. 19, and with more shows like Thursday night, they will be on their way to doing just that.