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Concert Review

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra in Southfield

* David Buck, flute
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Teddy Abrams
* Detroit Symphony Orchestra/David Buck
Southfield, Michigan, Congregation Shaarey Zedek, 7 March 2013

Two of the newest members of the DSO family got to show off in this somewhat uneven "neighborhood" concert at Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield as Princip. al Flute David Buck and Assistant Conductor Teddy Abrams shared the stage. While Abrams has appeared with the orchestra several times now, this was to my knowledge Buck's first solo appearance with the orchestra. A small but appreciative crowd gathered in this magnificent local synagogue for the occasion.

This is now the third time I have seen Beethoven's Egmont overture live this season, and I must confess myself at a loss as to why that was so. It featured in the season preview concerts, was a curtain raiser for the Beethoven festival, and was played again here. Abrams is clearly more comfortable with the orchestra than he was last fall, and his performance was accordingly improved. Differences between him and Music Director Leonard Slatkin were small, though, and it was basically the same performance as in the festival. I do think Abrams is a touch more excitable, but at the slight loss of cogency.

David Buck was formerly principal flute for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and he is a great artist for whom the Mozart concerto presented very few challenges. He played magnificently, with a huge tone and impressive dynamic range. I also suspect he wrote the very difficult and unusual cadenzas himself, and that's all for the good. The outer movements bubbled like a stream, while the slow movement was as tenderly phrased as one could ask for. Unfortunately, the 24-year old Abrams does not seem comfortable with Mozart yet. Working with drastically reduced orchestral forces, the generally exuberant maestro scaled down his conducting to ill effect. The orchestra seemed to realize his insecurity with the idiom, responding with tentative attacks and some odd balances. Still, he has plenty of time to work on that, and Buck was utterly unfazed.

After intermission came Brahms' longest symphonic work, the Second Symphony. Although somewhat pastoral in nature, the work responds well to an extroverted reading. Back on more comfortable footing, Abrams showed his potential convincingly with a spirited interpretation. Some entrances were still shaky, but I suspect that the unusual layout of the venue caused some issues acoustically. Regardless, the DSO played extremely well and with a good deal of enthusiasm. I'm inclined to believe that playing the symphony in such a driven manner lost some details along the way, but the young conductor used enough genuine music insight to offset a few unusually fast passages. For a work that had not been played by the orchestra since 2007, the overall impression was very positive.

The DSO's Neighborhood concert series is just one of many innovations by the orchestra to become more accessible to the public that it serves. With Music Director Leonard Slatkin in attendance, Abrams and Buck effectively introduced themselves to Detroit's many music lovers. In conjunction with the Beethoven festival, the DSO continues to rejuvenate itself and reach beyond Orchestra Hall. All and all, an excellent evening.

Copyright © 2013, Brian Wigman