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John Lamb, Published April 20 2013

Review: Guest conductor Corcoran leads rousing review of Russian classics

FARGO – After today’s final Masterworks concert of the season, the real hard work begins for the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony.

After an impressive conductor search season, the organization has to make a tough decision between five talented candidates who all displayed different personalities and skill sets.

The fifth and final candidate, Kelly Corcoran, didn’t make that decision any easier, leading the symphony through another shining performance.

On paper, an evening of Russian classics may seem daunting for an audience weary of never-ending winter weather and an impending flood, but Corcoran’s baton lifted the spirits of both musicians and listeners during Saturday night’s performance at North Dakota State University’s Festival Concert Hall.

Of course, no conductor can do it all on their own. Guest solo pianist Charlie Albright dazzled on Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43.” He fluttered over and dove into the piano as much as Corcoran bounced, even hopped – in heels! – all with effortless playing.

During a particularly romantic passage, the 24-year-old bent in gently like he was sharing secrets with the keys, only to later push away and strike them like he was trying to beat out information before ending the number on a humorous note.

He kept the cheers coming after a standing ovation, returning for a somewhat improvised encore of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Piano Sonata No. 11 in A (Turkish March).”

While the evening celebrated Russian composers, the Austrian Mozart was also honored, notably in Pytor Ilych Tchaikovsky’s “Orchestral Suite No. 4, Op. 61 ‘Mozartina.’ ” The series of odes were like fan notes from one composer to his idol, the most eloquent being the third, the moving “Preghiera (Prayer),” effectively using the woodwinds and harp.

The fourth movement, “Theme and Variations” was the most stirring, with what could be the last solo FMSO audiences hear from concertmaster Ben Sung, who hasn’t announced if he’ll return next season.

Perhaps if Corcoran gets the job, Sung will return to work with his old grad school colleague.

Corcoran may be small in stature, but she seems to have the chops to fill the maestro’s tuxedo.

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

If you go

What: F-M Symphony Masterworks Concert featuring guest conductor Kelly Corcoran and solo pianist Charlie Albright playing Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev

When: 2 p.m. today

Where: Festival Concert Hall, NDSU

Info: Tickets range from $15

for students and $35 for adults. (701) 478-3676