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Wednesday, February 24,2010

Higher than a kite

After a few bounces, LSO sends Mozart soaring into the sky

by Lawrence Cosentino
The Lansing Symphony has climbed crags, ridden rapids and moved mountains of major repertoire under maestro Timothy Muffitt, but Saturday night they faced a truly daunting task: lifting a beautiful, balanced box-kite of Mozart into the air and keeping it there the whole evening.

Muffitt and the band leapt from the stern tolling to the airy glitter of “Don Giovanni” and back again with no evident strain, but an unwelcome element of suspense crept into the symphony that followed, No. 25. The pulse was strong but the focus went blurry at times, owing largely to a trio of horn players who couldn’t seem to pull in the same direction.


The problem persisted at a low and largely ignorable level until the last movement, when raggedness degenerated into wrong notes — and there’s no place for a horn to hide in a modest, Mozart-scaled classical orchestra.


Meanwhile, the performance grew intermittently labored, which is understandable — keeping all these balls in the air is hard work — but a sure Mozart-killer. The kite was veering toward the Twisty Freeze sign, skittering over the shingles on Mrs. Zuby’s roof and heading for the lights next to the ballpark.


But wait! For the eveningclosing “Jupiter” symphony, everyone found even ground and took off like gazelles.


Technical mastery ripened into high play, especially in the mysterious and moody slow movement, with its a series of deathletter chords.


Petite concertmaster Seunghee Lee dove forward and shouldered each one of those chords like a linebacker, recoiling backward so violently a man to my left involuntarily said “My goodness!”


The waltz movement bounced like a pearl on a satin pillow and the finale’s melodies and countermelodies forked into the hall like webs of living lightning.


The kite was over the power lines and beyond the highest trees, spinning way up in the cerulean where it belonged.

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