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Inon Barnatan helps Sioux City Symphony Orchestra make clever connections / Sioux City Journal

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Sioux City Journal's Bruce Miller writes….With more than 70 musicians, two harps, two-plus hours of music and standout performances by veteran members of the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra, Saturday’s season opener was a lot to unpack. And that’s not even mentioning guest artist Inon Barnatan on piano.

Performing George Gershwin’s “Concerto in F” and tossing in an “I Got Rhythm” encore, Barnatan was more than enough of a Saturday surprise.

He rolled through the three movements with great confidence, ending with a cadenza that should have prompted audience members to sweat, too. Barnatan’s showmanship was on display throughout, helping connect the dots between Maurice Ravel and Duke Ellington. According to music director Ryan Haskins, Ravel admired Gershwin and wanted to meet him. When the two finally connected, they went to see Duke Ellington perform.

As the night’s thread, the oh-so-large orchestra offered up Ravel’s “Daphnis et Chloe, Suite No. 2” before the concerto and Ellington’s “Harlem” after. The aural connections emerged.

“Paris” was great, but it might have been more effective in tandem with “Concerto in F.”

Haskins, though, has a great knack for creating themes, pulling seemingly stray works into a night’s program.

Barnatan was a dandy collaborator. He exhibited Haskins’ same enthusiasm and wasn’t afraid to toss in a bit of drama. He ceded plenty of space to the orchestra and, at one point, was almost hid behind the strings.

Still, he came back with that encore that served as a preview of coming attractions. Saturday’s appearance made us want to see him do an evening of selections without any competition. A solo performance? We’re ready.

The national anthem, a tribute to retiring musician Jane Quail, several sponsor introductions and a video of Barnatan detailing his musical journey helped swell the evening.

On another night, it might have been too much. Coming after a dry summer, it was proof the orchestra was back and ready for a year of surprises and excellence.

Best of all, it showcased the musicians who call the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra home. They played well with Barnatan and – packed as it was – set the stage for more to come.

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