Review: "Mitchell conducts a vivid program at Texas Music Festival"

Brett Mitchell takes a bow with the Texas Music Festival Orchestra on Saturday, June 24 at the University of Houston’s Moores Opera House. (Photo by Andrew Davis)

Brett Mitchell takes a bow with the Texas Music Festival Orchestra on Saturday, June 24 at the University of Houston’s Moores Opera House. (Photo by Andrew Davis)

Texas Classical Review has published a review of Brett Mitchell's recent performance with the Texas Music Festival Orchestra:

The Texas Music Festival gives college and conservatory students a glimpse of how professional orchestras work—beginning with making the young instrumentalists tackle a new concert program each week. When an orchestral work springs to life during the weekend’s performance, one can hear the lessons taking hold.

So it was Saturday when conductor Brett Mitchell, the Colorado Symphony’s music director designate, led the 100 players in Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations in the University of Houston’s Moores Opera House. The orchestra may not consistently boast the well blended instrumental choirs and overall lushness of groups whose musicians collaborate year-round. But Elgar’s character sketches of his loved ones came across with vividness and warmth.

Mitchell and the orchestra set the tone immediately. The sound was full and mellow, and Mitchell gave Elgar’s lyricism a natural ebb and flow–which gained ardor when the cellos welled up with their countermelody near the theme’s end. All that established the air of family-and-friends coziness that suffuses the entire work.

From there on, the orchestra’s airiness, gusto and heft made each portrait come alive. The crisp, bustling strings in the second variation conjured up the enthusiasm of Elgar’s amateur-musician pals. Mitchell steered the group adroitly through the fifth variation’s contrasts between sonorous strings and breezy winds. The famous “Nimrod” unfolded naturally and with a supple grace, Mitchell guiding the music to a gradual crescendo of apt nobility.

The orchestra’s lustiness, especially on the part of its brasses and lower strings, captured the bounding energy of the bulldog belonging to the subject of “G.R.S.” At the other extreme, the diaphanous clarinet solo in the “Romanza” evoked feelings whose tenderness is palpable even though their real-life object remains uncertain. And the orchestra built the final variation to a ringing, jubilant close.

To read the complete review, please click here.