Performance Review: 1,001 Nights: Scheherazade

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Performance Review: 1,001 Nights: Scheherazade

The Jacksonville Symphony’s Florida Blue Classical Series presented “1,001 Nights: Scheherazade” this weekend, a colorful program of three mesmerizing works under the baton of guest conductor Elinor Rufeizen.

Les Préludes, Symphonic Poem No. 3 by Franz Liszt

Kicking off the evening was Les Préludes, Symphonic Poem No. 3 by Franz Liszt. Rufeizen led the Symphony with clarity, economy of motion and nuanced expression. The players responded, playing with tight coherence and focus. The Jacksonville Symphony strings, always excellent, were of particular note here, sculpting Liszt’s soaring lyrical lines with perfect intonation and richness of color. The brass were also in top form, particularly in the rapturous concluding pages of the piece, their formidable power combining with the rest of the Symphony to make viscerally clear why Les Préludes is considered Liszt’s greatest orchestral masterpiece.

Interested in learning more? Explore a full set of Program Notes.

Pavane, Op. 50 by Gabriel Fauré

Second on the program was Gabriel Fauré’s Pavane, featuring the Jacksonville Symphony Chorus. The plaintive opening flute solo led us into Fauré’s unique and unmistakably French sound world. There is an understated and delicate quality to Fauré’s music, and finding just the right balance of dynamics and tempo is critical. Rufeizen proved to have a very good feel for this music, letting the lyrical phrases breathe but never drag and making sure the balance between Chorus and Symphony remained ideal. French is a very tricky language for English speaking choirs to sing in, but the Jacksonville Symphony Chorus Director Don McCullough had clearly prepared the group brilliantly, as they sang the text with clarity, projection and poise.

Scheherazade by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

Wrapping up and tying the evening together was Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s shimmering Scheherezade. One of the great pieces in classical repertoire for showing off the various colors and individual instruments of a large orchestra, this work clearly demonstrates why Rimsky-Korsakov is regarded as one of history’s finest orchestrators. Concertmaster Adelya Nartadjieva and harpist Kayo Ishimaru-Fleisher did a stellar job with the recurring Sultana theme. Each time it returned throughout this long work, they breathed new life and character into it. Of the many well-rendered solos that occurred throughout the performance, two that especially stood out for me were the bassoon lines of Anthony Anurca and the clarinet passages played by Principal Clarinetist Giovanni Bertoni, whose lyricism and dynamic control were nothing short of stunning. Rufeizen once again paced the music well and brought out a wide dynamic range from the players.

“1,001 Nights: Scheherazade” was yet another imaginative and well-programmed concert by the Jacksonville Symphony and Chorus that had something for everyone. Rufeizen is clearly a major talent, and here’s hoping we see her return to the podium here in Jacksonville sometime in the near future.

Tim Tuller is the Canon for Music at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral in Jacksonville, Florida. Tuller formerly wrote for the Florida Times-Union as the classical music reviewer. 

Watch, Listen and Read

Interested in joining the Jacksonville Symphony for another innovative and engaging season? Please visit our 2022/23 Season page to learn more about the upcoming season programming. Additional content for this performance includes a full set of Program Notes. Looking for more content? Subscribe to our YouTube Channel to watch concert archives, interviews, behind the scenes content and more.

The Jacksonville Symphony would like to give special thanks to Florida Blue for sponsoring the Classical Series. Additional thanks are given to Tim Tuller for attending the performance and writing this performance review: 1,001 Nights: Scheherazade. 

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