A light, airy program, charismatic guest conductor add up to success for the Boise Philharmonic

The Boise Philharmonic played Mozart this weekend at three sold out concerts — one at Swayne Auditorium in Nampa and two at the Cathedral of the Rockies in Boise.

With music director Robert Franz conducting the Windsor Symphony, the Canadian orchestra that shares his leadership, an energetic and affable Joost Smeets from the Netherlands, stepped in and made his American debut in Boise. A wonderful presence on the podium,  Smeets charmed the audience Saturday morning with a thoughtful speech and dynamic performance.

Because of the popular program and smaller venue, the orchestra repeated its evening program in its Casual Classics slot on Saturday morning.

The program included two Mozart pieces, written 10 years apart. The first was the Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra, which featured Boise Phil flutist and harpist Jeffrey Barker and Matthew Tutsky.

The piece is like lace doily with intricate and delicate musical lines played by harp and flute that beautifully intersect with each other and the orchestra.

Barker posses a rich, clear tone that allowed his notes to soar over the orchestra. Tutsky who is a wiz at fingering, masterfully kept pace and when the two instruments were in duet, they created wonderfully beautiful moments.

Symphony No. 40, one of Mozart’s most recognizable and influential works, made up the second half.

Smeets kept the pace brisk and lively, not wasting a moment. The musicians were spot on throughout, proving their collective prowess with a layered, deeply colored performance that brought out both the joy and melancholy in the piece.

The surprise of the concert was the opening Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Johann Kuhnau by 20th century Dutch composer Hendrick Andriessen. The conductor introduced it saying he wanted to be an ambassador for his country’s music. And thank you.

This selection was a lovely match to the Mozart. It is a string of musical sketches based on a theme by organist Kuhnau, the last of which, with basses and cellos playing on the lowest end sounded like an organ in the space.

The venue shift from the Morrison Center to the First United Methodist Church “Cathedral of the Rockies” (for this concert only) was a cost-cutting measure brought on by the orchestra’s financial challenges.

Yet, it offered some benefits — to explore a different repertoire and hear this music with wonderfully lively acoustics that add a depth and richness. The Cathedral is becoming a more frequent venue for classical groups. Check it out at future Philharmonic events and the Boise Baroque Orchestra’s season.


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