Austin Symphony with Caitlin Tully

Local Arts Reviews


Austin Symphony With Caitlin Tully: She Got It

Bass Concert Hall,

Oct. 18

Conductor Peter Bay, introducing what turned out to be an invigorating and enjoyable program, said of guest violinist Caitlin Tully simply that we'd be amazed. The 14-year-old Tully, making her way across the country as a guest of symphonies, chamber orchestras, and more, was indeed amazing. Surely by now she's bored by descriptions of her teenage-ness informing her playing style, but watching her play Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole, it was hard not to see both the consummate musician and the raging teenager at work and play. The musicianship Tully brought to Lalo's 19th-century composition was beyond reproach. The piece is described as being "fiendishly difficult for a mere mortal violinist" penned originally for the virtuoso Sarasate, but Tully was more than equal to the drama, the spriteliness, and the flair of Lalo's work. The teenage thing -- well, there was the pout. Tully, when not playing, often wore a look of near-arrogance -- call it insouciance. Her bow movements, when not painstakingly precise, included a gesture of throwing away the last, brash note, practically flinging her bow across the strings and into the sky. Then she'd drop her head, let her violin fall to her side, and freeze for a moment in some serious aloofness. But Tully was not disrespectful in the slightest to either the music or the orchestra. Simply: She got it, this insanely difficult piece of violin work; it was no big deal to play.

Of course, her frequent glances at maestro Bay and little smiles betrayed a girl who's not all attitude. Tully was genuinely surprised at the wholehearted celebration of her performance and was much too shy to consider a second encore. The audience was treated to a single extra (exquisite) Bach solo, and that was that.

Before Tully performed, the Austin Symphony Orchestra played two pieces that concluded its trip through the world of art. The first, Peter Schickele's Thurber's Dogs, was six movements, each based on the composer's response to a series of drawings by James Thurber of canines in various settings. Schickele sometimes composes as "PDQ Bach," but here there was none of that character's parody or playfulness; the composer has plenty of wit and whimsy of his own, and these six pieces offered a range of articulate musical descriptions, from the rambunctiousness of "Hunting Hounds" and "He Goes With His Owner Into Bars" down to the somber "Dog at His Master's Grave" and the quite lovely "Dog and Butterfly."

Ottorino Resphigi composed the other arts-oriented work on the bill: "Trittico Botticelliano," a triptych of musical movements based on three Botticelli paintings. The third movement, "La Nascita di Venere" ("The Birth of Venus") built from a tranquil seascape into foaming, sensual swells at the hands of Bay and symphony, only to suddenly quiet back to its initial theme in a haunting, moving conclusion.

Two final points: Bay and the ASO are programming some terrific, accessible, exciting music, and, as ever, watching Bay at work with his orchestra is a delight. And there is now a $5 student rush for each subscription performance. So whatever seats are left unsold are up for grabs for a mere five bucks. That is practically giving away this wonderful music, so, if you've never been to the ASO because it costs too much, well, now you can, and must, go.

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Austin Symphony, Caitlin Tully, Peter Bay, Symphonie Espagnole, Peter Schickele, Thurber's Dogs, PDQ Bach, Hunting Hounds, He Goes With His Owner Into Bars, Dog At His Master's Grave, Dog And Butterfly, Ottorino Resphigi, Trittico Botticelliano, La nascita di Venere, The Birth of Venus

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