There has been an orchestra in Boise for 51 years, and I would bet that it has never sounded as good as the Boise Philharmonic did Saturday night at the Morrison Center.
That’s not to say that there haven’t been stellar performances in the past. However, the musicians on stage Saturday — led by music director Robert Franz, and helped by an infusion of several young, energetic musicians entering their second season — are jelling into a consistently fine orchestra that just gets better with every performance.
The program kicked off a season that promises to challenge the orchestra with big, bold musical choices and what Franz calls “music that changed the world.”
Everyone is off to a good start.
A nearly sellout crowd turned out for the return of violinist Rachel Barton Pine, who performed a spectacular interpretation of the Sibelius Violin Concerto.
Franz described the piece as a “soundscape” — a mesmerizing journey through the icy fjords and mountains of Sibelius’ native Finland. As a soundscape, he paired it with the opening “Pacific 231,” Swiss composer Honegger’s avant-garde tone poem that offers clever and challenging play with time signatures, which the orchestra handled well.
Pine soared and sizzled, with a singular tone that could pierce through the music as if amplified and in the next moment turn whisper soft. She handled the extremely difficult technical aspects of the work with seeming ease, matching its passion with her own, without resorting to histrionics.
And the orchestra’s string section — adeptly led by concertmaster Geoffrey Trabichoff — created the perfect fabric for her shimmering sonic embroidery, from the glimmering tones of the opening to the fiery depths of the final movement. It was quite a ride and the audience went along for every moment.
For an encore, Pine played a version of “Happy Birthday” that was worthy of Paganini. It showcased both her incredible technique and her sense of humor.
The closer was the Brahms First Symphony. It was everything you’d want that piece to be: rich in tone, lively, elegant and deeply satisfying.
Franz let the piece just unfurl organically, with nothing forced or overly emphasized. It offered some lovely moments for highlighting members from the orchestra’s ranks, including Peter Stempe on oboe, Jeffrey Barker on flute, Trabichoff and horn player Brian Vance, who’s clear, resonate tone filled the hall.
Dana Oland: 377-6442, Twitter: @IDS_DanaOland