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Wednesday, October 27, 2010


An arts review by Lynn Bergman

The Artists

Dr. Beverly Everett, Music Director for the Bismarck Mandan Symphony Orchestra (BMSO), pulled another rabbit out of the musical hat with this memorable evening at the Belle Mehus Auditorium on October 23rd. Western North Dakota’s premier symphony orchestra exceeded all expectations of classical music lovers as concert violinist Jessica Mathaes thrilled everyone in the Belle.

The Sponsors

Tesoro and Wells Fargo Bank provided the partial sponsoring and guest artist support, respectively, to bring this evening of enjoyment to south-central North Dakota. Roberts Floral supplied the onstage floral arrangement. Kay’s Bed & Breakfast provided accommodations for Ms. Mathaes.

Overture to Ruslan and Lyudmila by Mikhail Glinka

The program began with a “warming” of the audience through the “Overture to Ruslan and Lyudmila” by Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857), the creator of the style that blended Western European influences with Russian folk music, laying the foundation for the Russian Nationalist style that permeated the19th century. The plot of the opera revolves around the adventures of the knight Ruslan as he battles magical forces to rescue the beautiful Lyudmila from the trance in which the evil dwarf Chernomor has ensnared her.

Following studies in St Petersburg, Italy, and Berlin, Glinka’s best works were composed when he returned to Russia in the mid 1830s on the death of his father and was married. “Ruslan and Lyudmila” was produced in 1842 and Glinka left Russia in 1844 after his marriage was broken. The parallels between the breakup of his marriage and the trance that snared the beautiful Lyudmila are mysteries to ponder. My personal speculation is that his wife was intensely jealous of the composer’s many admirers, something Glinka may have seen as a “possession” as exemplified by the trance of evil dwarf Chernomor.


Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Minor by Aram Khachaturian (1903-1878)


Jessica Mathaes is a mystical talent. While perfectly mastering the technical demands of this piece, she brought an emotion to the strings that the astonished audience could only wonder at. After each difficult solo, we were privileged to watch Ms. Mathaes express her joy by sharing, with the orchestra and audience, an immense smile at the conquered challenge. It was the symphonic equivalent of an athlete’s fist pump after sinking a put or striking out a batter.


At the conclusion of the concerto, Jessica was received by the audience as warmly as I have ever witnessed. Her unexpected gift to the audience in return was an extremely moving performance of “Meditation from Thais” by Jules Massenet. This was, for me, the most powerfully emotional performance on the violin that I’ve ever experienced and certainly the highlight of the evening. Fortunately, the intermission allowed for a breath of fresh air outside the Belle to collect all of the intense feelings that surfaced through Ms. Mathaes’ unbelievable performance.


Symphonic dances, Op.45 by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)


Following the intermission, the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra treated us to the melancholic “Symphonic Dances” originally written with the intent of being performed as a ballet. Never before have I seen a piece that so vigorously highlighted the multitudinous talents of our beloved orchestra! It is as if Rachmaninoff was determined to let no member or element of the orchestra remain anonymous to the audience! My awe of our wonderful orchestra was increased exponentially by their flawless execution of this beautiful work.




Anyone who has not attended a performance of the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra should seriously consider doing so. My favorite symphonic music is that which just rips my heart out of my chest through the funeral-like tones of the strings section. Other symphony-goers have other preferences. One thing I can promise… you will experience something that enriches your life. You will never know what you are missing if you do not experience at least one evening at the Belle before you pass through this life.

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