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Symphony review: Young trumpeter wows MSO

Published On: Feb 15 2014 12:12:09 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 15 2014 12:35:09 PM CST
Bill Wineke

Norwegian musician Tine Thing Helseth is too young to play the trumpet as well as she does.

The 26-year-old musician made her debut with the Madison Symphony Orchestra Friday night and provided a virtuoso performance, first playing Haydn’s “Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra in E- flat Major” and later Alexander Arutiunian’s "Trumpet Concerto in A-flat Major."

This is going to sound a bit weird, given the fact that people go to live concerts to hear live music, but the best way I can describe the way Helseth filled the large Overture Hall with her crisp range of sound is to compare it to the music one hears through a good set of stereo headphones.

She’s one woman with one instrument but the sound she produces just encompasses the auditorium.

And while she’s not very old, she’s quite experienced. She started playing trumpet when she was 7 and has since been a soloist with many of the world's best-known orchestras.

Her two pieces were part of an unusually varied concert.

It began with the famous Jean Sibelius work "Finandia" (the music is probably best known for the Christian hymn "Be Still My Soul") and ended with Richard Strauss's "Suite from Der Rosenkavalier."

In between came Helseth and a performance of John Adams' "Doctor Atomic Symphony."

Ah, yes, "Doctor Atomic."

The work comes from Adams' opera of the same name. It tells the story of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer and the angst he felt in developing the atomic bomb.

The music is loud, discordant and unnerving. It pretty well reflects the mood of the country in the years following the bombing of Japan; for the first time, mankind had at its disposal the ability to bomb itself into oblivion and that wasn't a good feeling.

It is a difficult piece of music and the MSO is up to the task. Our orchestra is comprised of superb musicians led by a superb conductor. John DeMain is celebrating his 20th anniversary with the MSO this year, and DeMain and his team know how to work together.

Those disclaimers being said, I hated it.

My wife, Jackie, and I saw the opera in 2007 at the Lyric Opera in Chicago. She loved it then. I hated it. She loved the MSO performance Friday night. I hated it: not the performance, the music.

But then my favorite movie is "Sleepless in Seattle," so you can see that playing angry music well doesn't really make me any happier.

The concert will be repeated at 8 p.m. Saturday and again at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

The next MSO concerts will feature pianist Yefin Bromfman playing an all-Beethoven program March 7, 8 and 9.

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