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CONCERT REVIEW: Fresno Philharmonic plays Wagner

I like Wagner a lot — but could it be I do better with him in smaller doses? Perhaps I just wasn’t properly channeling my inner Valkyrie, but the Fresno Philharmonic’s lineup of Wagner’s greatest hits at Sunday’s concert didn’t wow me.

The first half of the concert was less satisfactory than the second. In what should have been the pull-out-all-the-stops offering, the overture to “Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg,” the orchestra sounded a little mushy and sometimes listless to me, particularly the strings, even with Theodore Kuchar’s vigorous conducting. There were some fine, punchy moments, but not the fierce, red-hot vehemence I associate with Wagner.

Earlier, a flubbed instrumental opening of the Bridal Chorus of “Lohengrin” was an unfortunate way to introduce the singers of the Fresno Community Chorus Master Chorale and Fresno State Concert Choir.

The second part of the concert was stronger. The prelude to Act III of “Lohengrin” had a lot of zip. “The Ride of the Valkyries” approached combustibility. And the gorgeous Pilgrim’s Chorus of “Tannhauser,” featuring the men of the choirs, built with a nuanced intensity. By the time the full chorus returned in the “Entrance of the Guests” finale to “Tannhauser,” I felt the orchestra was getting into the Wagner groove. But it took a while to get there.

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