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John Lamb, Published January 23 2011

Music review: Symphony dances night away

If you go

Patrick Lin was the obvious star of Saturday’s Fargo-Moorhead Symphony performance, but it was still conductor Bernard Rubenstein’s show.

On his first night at the helm since announcing he would step down as musical director after the 2011-12 season, the maestro showed why he’s been an excellent leader for nine years.

Following the concert’s theme, “An Evening in Vienna,” Rubenstein selected six wonderfully effervescent pieces that flowed together effortlessly.

The evening opened with Johann Straus II’s light and punchy “Overture to Die Fledermaus” setting a bubbly tone for the night. Translated as “The Bat,” the work allowed the fluttering of flutes as violins answered in a similar flurry.

Praising the talented musical youth in the community, Rubenstein introduced symphony violinist Patrick Lin, winner of the 2011 Young Artists Solo Competition, to solo on Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Violin Concerto No. 3.” The French piece was the only non-Austrian work of the evening.

Those at the mid-November Masterworks concert would remember guest soloist Tai Murray’s performance. After this weekend, they’ll likely remember Lin’s performance just as fondly.

The 15-year-old performed with the poise of a more seasoned player and the execution of an exceptional student. Lin seemed comfortable at center-stage, but unemotional, even shy, about playing to a crowded house and his teacher/concertmaster Ben Sung, who sat to Lin’s right, smiling at his prodigy.

After the piece, Sung sprang up with an enthusiastic hug, followed by Rubenstein, who moments later chased after the teen talent to draw him back for a second bow. Lin was then presented with a bouquet of flowers by symphony Executive Director Linda Coates and a still-standing ovation from the crowd.

Lin returned to his seat for the next work, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Symphony No. 35 in D Major,” which returned the audience to Vienna and the lighter selections of the evening.

Starting the second half, Rubenstein sandwiched Franz Schubert’s “Rosamunde” around Gustav Mahler’s “Adagietto from Symphony No. 5.” Acknowledging that it was a bit of “an experiment,” Rubenstein stitched them together more like a surgeon than a mad scientist. The “Overture to Rosamunde” maintained the first half’s light energy, punctuated by ominous blasts. This nicely set up the swelling and somber “Adagietto.”

The maestro picked a curious closer, Strauss’ “On the Beautiful Blue Danube.” Though sometimes referred to as Austria’s unofficial anthem, waltzes aren’t typical symphony repertoire.

But Rubenstein has exhibited time and again incredible taste in his selections of music and performers, presenting programs that have been both adventurous and accessible.

Too bad none in the crowd were bold enough to accept the conductor’s offer to waltz the night away in the aisles, but the bobbing heads and hands conducting from the seats showed that they enjoyed the set just fine where they were.

Thankfully, this wasn’t Rubenstein’s last dance with the FM Symphony and only one of the first for Patrick Lin.

Readers can reach Forum columnist John Lamb at (701) 241-5533