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Ode to Ode to Joy

The Boise Philharmonic's numerical performance

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Boise Weekly doesn't have a classical music critic. Boise is still, for all its recent growth, a smallish community, and right now we're more interested in fostering orchestral performance than deconstructing it. This isn't to say we can't be critical, but if you want to read technical terms and a nuanced deconstruction, then go pick up a copy of The New Yorker. This is an experiential review.

It would take a cynical soul indeed to pooh-pooh the Boise Philharmonic's November 19 performance of Dimitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 9 in E Flat and Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D Major. Judging by the audience that packed the Morrison Center's sold-out show, anticipation was high for the performance and it probably wasn't for Shostakovich as much as for Beethoven and his part-of-our-cultural-literacy symphony.

The Philharmonic performed the Shostakovich first and it was lovely, despite the lesser familiarity to this reviewer (and probably a good deal of the audience). Premiered in 1945 to celebrate Soviet victory, this symphony was not the bombastic tribute the party was expecting (and indeed, Shostakovich was disciplined and "re-educated" for this work). The music is quite spare, almost delicate, and more movingly grave than grandly patriotic.

After a brief intermission it was Beethoven's turn. From the first notes, the familiar sound of this symphony had the audience's attention. In contrast to the Shostakovich, one couldn't help noticing that Beethoven really puts a symphony through its paces--as if the success of the performance depended on the dynamics and sheer volume of the notes.

It wasn't until the final movement of the symphony, though, that the big guns came out: along with the full orchestra, 150 vocalists from the Boise Master Chorale, Boise State Meistersingers and Northwest Nazarene Crusader Choir overflowed the stage and four distinguished soloists--Rochelle Ellis, Lucy Salome, Eric Ashcraft and Patrick Blackwell--took their places at the front of the stage to sing the lines from Shiller's Ode to Joy (text and translation were provided) while conductor James Ogle gesticulated wildly and pulled it all together. The ensuing beautiful noise felt as if it would push out the walls of the Morrison Center, and the audience could hardly contain its thunderous applause until the last notes of the performance.

The Boise Philharmonic next plays on Jan. 27 (NNU's Brandt Center) and Jan. 28 (the Morrison Center), performing works by Weber, Mozart and Mendelssohn.