Bottle It, and Label It “Vintage WCO”

Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra achieves near-perfection in a typically varied program


We look forward five times a year to settling into the Capitol Theater and soaking up another program cleverly devised by Andrew Sewell, and more often than not, impeccably played by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. Last Friday night, all concerned may have raised the bar another notch.

In a program that ranged from real Baroque (Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5) to faux Baroque (the Suite No. 1 from Ancient Airs and Dances of Respighi), with a 20th-century classic and a Classical rarity mixed in, Sewell and company produced blend, balance, intonation and stylistic panache par excellence.

The visiting soloist was flutist Dionne Jackson (pictured above, courtesy WCO); joined in the spotlight by concertmaster Suzanne Beia and harpsichordist Jason Moy, the aforementioned Bach was the expected delight. Only in the first movement, when the featured trio seemed a bit overbalanced by the eight string players, could one find a quibble.

Jackson displayed all of her razzle-dazzle—and a to-die-for low range—in Carl Nielsen’s quirky and stimulating Flute Concerto. Nothing seems to be beyond her technically (after all, she was the first American to win first prize at the Paris Conservatory in over a decade), and Jackson embraces all the fun and sass of the piece.

Post-intermission Sewell gave us another transparent and bouncy ride through Respighi; at least one other suite of the series has been done here in recent seasons, and they are always welcome.

But the major surprise of the night was the Symphony No. 79 of Haydn. As I listened—undoubtedly for the first time to this obscure example from the composer’s 104 symphonies—I couldn’t help but wonder how many players (if any!) had ever played it before. It was thoroughly fresh, full of Haydn’s clever touches and guileless charm. Of course we usually hear Haydn symphonies with nicknames, so let’s start a campaign to name No. 79: Let’s call it the “Unjustly Neglected.” And chalk up another major programming win for Maestro Sewell…and again some added applause for the sounds being produced by this ensemble. Their next Capitol Theater appearance is March 18, and you are hereby urged to attend.

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