Review: 'Mitchell, River Oaks Chamber Orchestra rove widely, from Mozart to Kilar'

Brett Mitchell leads the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra in Houston at St. John the Divine on Saturday, February 23.

Brett Mitchell leads the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra in Houston at St. John the Divine on Saturday, February 23.

HOUSTON — The Texas Classical Review has published a review of Brett Mitchell’s performance on Saturday, February 23 with the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra:

The program ranged from Wojciech Kilar’s Orawa, a string-ensemble piece, to Ethel Smyth’s Overture to The Wreckers, which is typically full-orchestra fare. Mozart’s Symphony No. 35 and others works came in between.

Led by conductor Brett Mitchell, music director of the Colorado Symphony, the orchestra moved adroitly among styles and sounds, capturing The Wreckers’ heft as readily as the Haffner’s airiness and zip.

For The Wreckers…right from the dynamic opening theme, the orchestra brought the overture heft and boldness. Besides spurring the orchestra to play so vigorously, Mitchell guided it confidently through the overture’s mood changes. When a waltz suddenly interrupted the agitation, Mitchell and the orchestra gave it a lustiness that may have harkened back to the opera’s setting in a British village; when the music took a clangorous, aggressive turn, the orchestra dug into it fiercely…

The orchestra played [Orawa] with incisiveness and momentum as Mitchell steered it through Kilar’s meter changes and sudden changes of tone, including a pounding theme that breaks out at one point. The players unleashed bursts of virtuosity in the whirlwind filigree that propelled the music to its climax.

The orchestra had dubbed the program “Ticket to Ride,” casting it as a musical tour of nations. The linchpin was a new work inspired by trains: Jim Stephenson’s ROCOmotive, whose title plays off the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra’s initials… Mitchell and the orchestra revealed the music’s color and charm. The musicians raced through the first and fourth movements with breeziness and clarity. But they also brought a cozy intimacy to the second movement and a jaunty cheerfulness to the third, which included nimble solos for oboe and flute…

Mitchell also directed the orchestra to relish Mozart’s energy and exuberance in the Haffner without allowing the church’s reverberation to muddy the textures. The strings’ nimbleness and precision played a key role, and Mitchell had the winds ringing out brightly without overdoing it.

To read the complete review, please click here.