When the conductors agreed on performing difficult classics, they expanded a strong partnership within the Valley Symphony Orchestra and Chorale. Music Director and Conductor Peter Dabrowski and Chorale Conductor Christopher Munn slapped hands and smiled at the finish like football coaches celebrating a victory.

The musicians and singers congratulated each other too. Nobody was carried off on shoulders, but they did get a standing ovation, well earned.

This symphonic excitement, that lesser orchestras rarely attempt, made Feb.19 more proof of this Symphony’s growth and artistic depth.

After-the-event comments by the two conductors follow.

Dabrowski said, “This was an extremely difficult and successful concert. The programoffered a wide variety of compositions from some of the greatest 19th and 20th century composers.

“The concert offered different stagings for each piece, something unusual for most symphony concerts. One of the highlights included Bizet’s Carmen, arranged by Russian composer Shchedrin, for five percussion soloists with a string orchestra. The audience was treated to familiar melodies with an unexpected and exciting orchestration. This performance was fun for everyone!

“The performances of Stravinsky and Borodin Russian repertoire by the Valley Symphony Chorale, under the direction of Dr. Christopher Munn, was of course another highlight. The chorale gave the audience another excellent performance. Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms also had an unexpected orchestration employing no upper strings. The orchestra staging showcased the lower strings and two pianos,” Dabrowski concluded.

Munn said, “As a professional musican, it was a thrill to be able to perform these works.

“The chorale enjoyed the challenge of preparing these works, and I am so pleased the audience received them so warmly.

“The skill and sophistication and dedication of both the Chorale and Orchestra have grown to the point that we are able to perform difficult music at a very high artisticlevel. Performances such as these put us on a par with nationally high profile organizations.This concert set the bar very high for the future.

“I am sure there were audience members who were a little surprised at the Stravinsky Symphony of Psalms, having not heard much music like this before, but it seems to me the sophistication of our audience also has matured in the last several years, and I thinkthey ended up realizing this work was just as listenable as Orff’’s Carmina Burana, which we have performed several times to ecstatic receptions,” Munn concluded.

These four classics suffered problems when first peformed, in two earlier centuries, but now are pearls to cherish.

George Gershwin’s “Cuban Overture” and Georges Bizet’s “Suite from Carmen”lit up the evening with some unique music interpretations. Gershwin claimed he spent “two hysterical weeks … where no sleep was had” while studying Cubanmusic. And Georges Bizet died during the disastrous first run of the immortal “Carmen.”

The program notes above were by Heike Hoffer, who made this quartet of strange opening nights all make sense, highly helpful to usnon-experts of music like me, who tries to write about it anyway.

These two pillars of Valley music do better and challenge more, each year. The next Valley Symphony concert is April 15 at The University of Texas-Pan American. Start seeking tickets now by phoning 661-1615or office@valleyorchestra.org (You will never regret it, if you love classical music.)