The Eastman Theatre was taken over by carnivals, “elegant oboes” and sinking ships, as the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra performed works by Russian composers Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov and German composer Richard Strauss last weekend.

While most RPO Philharmonics Concerts feature Christopher Seaman as conductor, last weekend’s concert was conducted by Marco Parisotto, principal conductor of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra.

Originally from Montreal, Mr. Parisotto has become a world-renowned conductor, winning many important conducting competitions throughout the world. He has conducted the orchestras of Paris, Tokyo, Toronto and Vancouver to name a few, and made his United States debut in Rochester two years ago.

The concert opened with Tchaikovsky’s “Capriccio Italien,” which was written during one of the composer’s visits to Italy.

In his first trip to Italy, Tchaikovsky found himself in a city that was bustling with carnival activity ? Rome.

While he first found the noises irritating and unappealing, he eventually grew to like this new type of music. Inspired by the carnival music, Tchaikovsky pulled the more common themes together into what would become the “Capriccio Italien,” with a slow climb in volume until the piece ends with the orchestra playing fortissimo.

Parisotto’s performance of this work was superb, and was greeted by a wave of applause from the audience immediately following the last note.

As one elderly lady observed, Parisotto “must have been exhausted at the end of the Capriccio. The way he jumped about added lots of depth [to the music]. He was very good.”

Parisotto’s conducting abilities were next paired with Laura Griffiths’s talented oboe playing in Strauss’s Oboe Concerto in D Major.

Griffiths, principal oboist of the RPO, received her Bachelor of Music degree from Eastman in 1991 and is currently on Eastman’s chamber music faculty. She has performed throughout the United States as both a soloist and principal oboe in several orchestras. This weekend, Griffiths’s playing portrayed both musical and technical skill.

Just playing the oboe is difficult enough, but projecting enough so that the people in the balcony seats can hear you takes incredible skill, especially in a hall the size of Eastman Theatre. Griffiths not only has this talent, but also has a rich sound and strong dynamic contrasts. Her performance in this concert could be best described in the words used by one of the RPO ushers ? “lovely and intriguing.”

Even an audience member, who asked not to be identified, said that he “fully agreed with [RPO conductor] Christopher Seaman’s program notes,” which called Griffiths’s playing full of “artistry and expressive power.” However, he didn’t especially like the concerto.

The concert ended with Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherezade,” written late in the 19th century. The piece is based upon the well-known tale of the Arabian Nights, in which the sultan condemns one of his wives, Scheherezade, to death. However, the sultan becomes intrigued by the stories that Scheherezade tells him each night, and puts off her execution each evening so that she can continue her storytelling.

The work opens with a conversation between the sultan and Scheherezade. The sultan was represented by the brass section and Scheherezade was portrayed by Wilfredo Deglns, the principal violinist.

The piece continues with ocean waves, magic, romance and a storm at sea. It ends with a shipwreck in the last movement.

“The RPO played with lots of energy, and I especially liked that,” senior bassoonist Eric Goldman said following the performance, although the RPO presented a nontraditional interpretation of the piece.

Many audience members, including freshman classical guitarist Sarah Ikerd, noted this energy. Ikerd said that she loved the “bombastic” quality of the piece.

After an inspirational performance, conductor Marco Parisotto walked off the stage to the tune of thunderous applause. When he returned to take his bow, both he and the orchestra were rewarded with a well-deserved standing ovation.

Jansen can be reached at

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