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Chris Botti Trumps Symphony Hall

2009 May 23
by Susan Asher


Written by guest blogger: Karin Koser

Lush. Lyrical. Light.

That was the fare tonight at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra concert at Symphony Hall. From the moment guest conductor Sarah Hicks lightly, quickly entered the stage, the hall was filled with fresh air. What, a female with bare arms leading the ASO? Long silky brown hair shaking as she directed, Hicks was warm, engaging and enjoying herself and the caliber of the musicians under her baton. Guesting from her usual assistant conductor spot in Minnesota, Hicks led the ASO in a breathless version of Debussy’s Claire de Lune. As in, I dared not breath during it, so as not to miss a single, perfect note.

Three songs later, she introduced the main attraction: trumpeter Chris Botti. To the initiated Botti fan, there was but one new addition to his usual tour fare–the exquisite young violinist Lucia Micarelli, barefoot and sparkly and the centerpiece of one of Botti’s (and my) favorite songs–the love theme from Cinema Paradiso. The show featured just one number accompanied by the considerable vocal talents of the show-stopping Sy Smith, cousin to Botti’s versatile guitarist Mark Whitfield. Her vocal rendition of The Look of Love, that iconic pop song popularized by Dionne Warwick, blew more fresh air into the room, especially when she mimicked Botti’s notes on the trumpet in a pitch-perfect vocal mirror. Everyone around me wanted more of Ms. Smith.

Botti’s show was complemented beautifully by the ASO, particularly the strings. His choice of songs–by now predictable to his fans–nonetheless showed off the exceptional range of one of the finest symphonies working in America today. To have the talented Ms. Hicks at the helm was a bonus, for Botti and the audience.

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