FARGO -- The Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra went a little spacey for its season opening concert Saturday night, Sept. 28, at North Dakota State University’s Festival Concert Hall, and fans were over the moon.
The concert, based on the theme of outer space, earned three standing ovations throughout the two-hour event, a fact made even more impressive by the fact the show was completely sold out.
In a night devoted to music evoking the heavens, it was only fitting that there were so many stars to the show.
Violinist Cristian Zimmerman truly shined as the featured soloist on Erich Korngold’s "Violin Concerto in D Major." It would be easy to say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as he is the son of FMSO's music director, Christopher Zimmerman. Cristian quickly proved to be a talented artist all his own with his effortless, yet emotive playing, so much so that the audience erupted in applause after just the first movement.
He isn’t the flashiest of soloists to take center stage with the FMSO and at 25, he doesn’t have the same resume of more established players, but Cristian earned his place in the spotlight with an impressive performance. He also earned a heartfelt hug from his father following the performance.
It was an emotional night for the elder Zimmerman who said it was a sad day as the concert -- and the matinee performance set for Sunday, Sept. 29 -- was the last with FMSO Executive Director Linda Boyd, who retires on Nov. 1. Boyd had already taken the stage earlier in the night and introduced the incoming executive director, Paul Hegland, of Kenosha, Wis.
Boyd touted the upcoming FMSO Family Concert on Sunday, Oct. 6, as a way to expose families to classical music. The plan was already in play at Saturday night’s show, which opened with Alexander Courage’s theme from “Star Trek” to the thrill of children of all ages.
Some symphony purists may say a TV show theme belongs in a pops concert, but it’s hard to argue with a sold-out crowd. Besides, the brief tune proved a poignant intro for Korngold’s "Violin Concerto in D Major," which seemed to have greatly inspired "Courage."
All of the pieces of the night were accompanied by projections from the Minnesota State University Moorhead Planetarium and its director, Sara Schultz, another of the evening’s stars. As the opening strains of “Star Trek” rose from the stage, a giant Earth emerged on a screen behind the musicians. There was no USS Enterprise whooshing across the screen, but the space station makes an appearance.
The visuals hit their peak with the night’s finale, a stirring production of Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” with depictions of the seven planets, other than Earth, corresponding to musical movements. Mars loomed as a brooding ascension behind the players, giving way to heroic passages, a march and ultimately a violent end. (Nerd alert -- this movement inspired John Williams’ “Star Wars” score, particularly “The Imperial March.”) Darkness gives way to light with the romantic Venus. As lovely and soft as Mars was harsh, the movement features a brief solo by concertmaster Sonja Bosca-Harasim.
Mercury is flitting, Jupiter is appropriately grand and Saturn is contemplative as the harps (two!) set a rhythm echoed later by the basses. The piece ends fittingly with the calm, isolated Neptune which comes to life with the celestial voices of NDSU’s Women’s Chorus, vocalizing offstage, before fading into the distance for a beautiful ending to a remarkable piece.
The FMSO is hardly going “where no man has gone before,” but fans will have a blast with this far-out show.
If you go
What: Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra Masterworks concert
When: 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29
Where: NDSU Festival Concert Hall, Reineke Fine Arts Center, Fargo
Info: Tickets range from $32 to $50; fmsymphony.org/mw1-planets