CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Stravinsky's 1911 ballet, "Petrushka," remains an astonishing, fresh-sounding piece in its 100th year. The West Virginia Symphony played it in a concert Friday night at the Clay Center.
Conductor Grant Cooper chose the 1947 version that the composer made to reduce the size of the woodwind and brass sections and to solve copyright issues in the West. Cooper chose the thumpingly loud concert ending that Stravinsky wrote at that time, but it doesn't tell the whole story of the little puppet Petrushka. Give me the original ending.
I won't quibble about the rest of the performance, which was marvelous. Cooper's detailing of the layers of texture and the swirling fragments of melody that emerge from them convinced, and he managed the many shifting meters with aplomb.
The orchestra matched his assurance with impeccable playing. Many soloists stood out as well: pianist Deborah Gross in the concerto-like passages of "The Shrovetide Fair," trumpeter David Porter, flutist Lindsey Goodman, clarinetist Robert Turizziani and bassoonist Klif Hodgkin.
The soloists in the first half of the program were local musicians.
Turizziani, the orchestra's principal clarinetist, was the featured soloist in Debussy's "Premiere Rhapsody." (In full disclosure, Turizziani has commissioned or premiered at least six of my compositions.) He played lyrically, with enough weight to his tone to sound clearly through the orchestra in dense passages. His technique was fluid and yielded graceful lines, and he had the stamina to play the whole piece, which the clarinet starts and never stops playing until the end.
Cooper's accompaniment was poised and atmospheric.
Saint Saens' "Carnival of the Animals" featured the excellent local pianists Vicki Berneking-Cavendish, the orchestra's keyboardist, and Deborah Gross. The piece is still wacky -- concertmaster Amelia Chan and principal second violinist Anton Shelepov got to glissando up their instruments, imitating donkeys, and Matt Larson's excellent xylophone playing represented fossils.
Gross and Cavendish blended seamlessly, no easy feat for two pianos, matching tone quality and attack. The rippling arpeggios and scales of "Aquarium," think darting fish, were lovely.
Cooper provided his own witty poems to introduce the pieces, drawing quite a few laughs from the audience.
The concert repeats tonight at 8 p.m. at the Clay Center.