Archive: News | Reviews

Profound Artistry with George Li and Symphony Tacoma

By John Falskow, South Sound Magazine

Saturday’s performance by George Li and Symphony Tacoma was one of the most special and memorable music events in our local arts history. Live music offers an amazing opportunity for people to connect. Sometimes across time and cultures the performing arts provide shared experiences that change us. Top to bottom – this Symphony Tacoma concert was exciting, polished, poetic, and touching.

Under conductor Sarah Ioannides’ leadership, Symphony Tacoma complimented Li’s artistry with polish and inspiration. The admiration between the orchestra and soloist was visible – players smiling and looking at Li throughout the concerto. It was a treat to see the veil of professional stoicism lift, and to witness Ioannides, Li, and the orchestral musicians’ electric vibe that fueled their performance. This performance had the personal communication of chamber music through the large orchestra medium. The commitment to musical teamwork was most obvious in the magical woodwinds and horn solos, and the extreme soft passages with strings. Ioannides has cultivated a special ensemble for our community.

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Symphony Tacoma’s Romeo and Juliet Collaboration = Big Win for Community

Review by John Falskow, South Sound Magazine

“On October 19th, Sarah Ioannides and Symphony Tacoma performed music from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet. This performance was a fantastic experience that blended drama and orchestra into a touching and profound live performance experience… a modern, creative staging for this music and acting—impressive and relevant work from our local arts community.

This production was all about the orchestra music, and the acting provided reference to the story the music was telling. The flow of the performance felt natural, and Prokofiev’s score was always the center of attention.

Believable excitement, nervousness, passion and romance all delivered through Prokofiev’s music, Symphony Tacoma’s artistry, and words from Shakespeare.

Under Ioannides’ skilled leadership, this orchestra is playing at a very high level.

This Symphony Tacoma concert was a testament to the creativity and collaboration that our community thrives on. The audience received the performance with enthusiastic applause and admiration. The teamwork and creativity of Sarah Ioannides, School of the Arts, and the Symphony Tacoma musicians has provided a unique and profound shared experience in the performing arts.

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Symphony Tacoma Rises to Beethoven’s Sun

Commissioning new work has become part of the Tacoma orchestra’s identity since Ioannides, a British conductor hailed as one of the best on Lebrecht’s “Women Conductors: The Power List,” took the helm nearly five years ago.

 

On Saturday night in the Pantages Theater, however, the music was not only new, but quietly turned the historic male composer archetype on its head. Lash isn’t just a woman, she’s also a professional harpist — an instrument traditionally dominated by women, and the polar opposite to Beethoven’s blustery, piano-percussive modality.

 

Symphony Tacoma, under Ioannides’ assured baton, rose to Beethoven’s sun with energy, passion and a full, rich sound that filled the sold-out theater. In the first movement, firm brass chords resonated against the renovated theater’s new shell, violins crisp and timpani exciting, with Ioannides guiding the music like a ship’s captain over stormy waves.

 

The Molto vivace was just that, fast and light, the lacy airiness of the triplets interrupted by stomping timpani like a giant among elves. Legato strings, a precise bassoon and expressive oboe led to an ending with flair. The third movement is a love song, and Ioannides made it flowing rather than funereal with long, arching phrases and the triplet section as intimate as a slow waltz. The 4th horn solo was particularly poignant, sounding as if played offstage.

 

And then, of course, the finale that everybody waits for: sonorous cello/bass recitative, thoughtful phrases, wistful violins, triumphant brass. Ioannides wove through the tempo changes with precision and grace, and the orchestra followed flawlessly. The quartet of soloists made a perfect balance of voices: Baritone  Charles Robert Stephens warm and personable, tenor Ross Hauck brilliant, mezzo Melissa Plagemann and soprano Kristin Vogel glittery as sunlight on top.

 

Symphony Tacoma Chorus filled the hall with a dynamic, strong sound, and as the notes flew to their shining destinations, it was as if every question in Hannah Lash’s piece had been answered.

 
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Symphony delivers strong performance in world premiere

Symphony Tacoma closed out its 2018-19 season with a flourish, with a performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony “Choral.” But the real highlight was a world premiere of “In Hopes of Finding the Sun.” Composed by Hannah Lash, a rising star in American orchestral music, the piece served as a perfect opening act. Written as response to response to Beethoven’s 9th, particularly “Ode to Joy,” it perfectly complemented the masterpiece by the German composers.

 

Sarah Ioannides, music director, did a marvelous job conducting the orchestra. At 15 minutes long, “In Hopes of Finding the Sun” was very effective in utilizing a short period of time to make a powerful musical statement. It shifted back and forth from the stringed instruments taking the forefront to them stepping back and the woodwinds moving into the spotlight.

 

“In Hopes of Finding the Sun” is an impressive work; we look forward to hearing more great output from Lash in the future.

 
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The majesty of Handel’s ‘Messiah’ a full experience at Symphony Tacoma performance

Symphony Tacoma held its annual performance of “Messiah” Dec. 14 at St. Charles Borromeo. The well-attended show once again took the audience on the great arc of the operatic story, from the predictions of the coming of the messiah, “a man of sorrows,” through his suffering of physical torment and then his ultimate triumph.

Symphony Tacoma conductor Sarah Ioannides guided the orchestra and choir through the grand arc of the oratorio.

 
 
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Symphony Tacoma is fantastic with ‘Symphonie Fantastique’

With Ioannides at the helm, Symphony Tacoma pulled the feat off flawlessly.
 

Through it all, Ioannides used her whole frame to channel the music on the page and to conduct it to the musicians of the orchestra. Her body, her hands and her facial expressions were constantly in motion, as she transmitted the music to the musicians who in turn brought it to life with their various skills.

Symphony Tacoma performs their concerts with professional confidence that is duly appreciated by the audience, expressed in multiple standing ovations. It is always a thing of value to experience great music played by great musicians.

 
 
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Guest Conductor Shows Off Strengths at Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Concert

On the mind of many in the audience at Saturday night’s Arkansas Symphony Orchestra concert at Little Rock’s Robinson Center Performance Hall: Is Sarah Ioannides’ guest-conducting gig this weekend a tryout for the orchestra’s pending podium vacancy? If so, she could not have had a more auspicious audition.

Music Director Philip Mann advocates using guest conductors, at least one per season, as a way of keeping the orchestra sharp, exposing the musicians to different styles and different techniques and strengthening the musical organization thereby. Ioannides, music director of Symphony Tacoma, certainly did that for this orchestra with some fierce orchestral showpieces, and the players came through with flying colors.

She led, sans score, a gorgeous rendition of Edward Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations, evoking a fine ensemble performance with several starring solo parts. Slightly longish breaks between many of the 14 variations allowed the audience to see each as a finely crafted gem while preserving the overall integrity of the piece.

Ioannides’ style differs markedly from Mann’s; her gestures are expressive and forceful, and there’s no chance the orchestra might misinterpret any of them.

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Symphony Tacoma starts new concert season off with musical magic

Symphony Tacoma kicked off its new season with an Oct. 20 concert, “Barber and Tchaikovsky,” at the Rialto Theater. The symphony performed three works: the seven minute “Ravish and Mayhem” by contemporary composer Stephanie Berg, Samuel Barber’s “Violin Concerto” and Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Symphony No. 5.” Representing three very different eras, each of the three works seemed to have an almost programmatic power of being evocative of images, seasons and moods.

The closing note was followed by sustained applause and a standing ovation, as conductor and musical director Sarah Ioannides took a bow and then had individual musicians and instrumental sections stand to be acknowledged.

 
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Review: Symphony Tacoma finishes season with an operatic flourish

By Dave Davison of Tacoma Weekly News

 

In the ornate and spacious interior of Tacoma’s Pantages Theater, on May 12, Symphony Tacoma finished its 2017-18 season in style with a combined choral and symphonic concert that included the powerful vocals of Kelly Cae Hogan, a soprano from the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Music director and conductor of Symphony Tacoma, Sarah Ioannides was like a combination of a dancer and a wizard as she expressively captained the musicians through an evening of sonic wonderment.

 

The evening opened with a performance of the six movements of Francis Poulenc’s “Gloria,” which brought to bear the full orchestra, the Symphony Tacoma Voices and Hogan’s talents. Decked out in a sparkling, creamy gray gown and with eyes catching the lights as brilliantly as her jeweled ring, Hogan sang the Latin text of “Gloria” with sumptuous verbosity.

 

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Chamber Orchestra meets Beethoven in a wild-card concert

The Inquirer by David Patrick Stearns

 

The other big discovery was guest conductor Sarah Ioannides, a Curtis Institute graduate and someone who has been working with regional orchestras from El Paso to Tacoma. However gracious her manner, she somehow induced Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia to play on a level that’s been wanting since the departure of now-conductor-laureate Ignat Solzhenitsyn some years ago. The playing in this longish Beethoven program was vigorous, solid, and with an unusually vibrant sonority. Her programming ideas were provocative: She programmed a lot of early Beethoven that’s worth an occasional hearing, such as the Rondo for piano and orchestra, as well as unfinished Beethoven, in an assemblage of his borderline-chaotic Symphony No. 10. Her rendering of that last piece was particularly notable: This is music with no real performance tradition, though you wouldn’t have known that from what was heard on Sunday.

 

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