Temple Symphony Orchestra

The 65 musicians in the Temple Symphony Orchestra rehearse on the stage of Temple College's Performing Arts Center. This is the orchestra's 21st season of concerts.

The jewel in Central Texas’ fine arts crown, the Temple Symphony Orchestra, just passed a milestone: the first concert of its 21st season. “Great Beginnings” featured a trio of major symphonic works that would be a challenge for orchestras from New York or Boston, plus a piano soloist with an international reputation.

Much of the success of the TSO can be attributed to Tom Fairlie, a musical dynamo who wears many hats: He’s director of fine arts at Temple College; founder and director of the Temple Jazz Orchestra and the Temple Jazz Festival; board president of the Central Texas Jazz Society; and the founder and current musical director/conductor of the TSO.

Fairlie’s wife, Mary, is director of orchestral activities at Temple College, and plays in the first violin section of the TSO.

As with most nonprofit arts organizations, the TSO relies heavily on “sponsors, donors, program advertisers, season (ticket) subscribers and individual ticket purchasers who make it possible to have a high-caliber professional orchestra,” said Johnette Frentz, TSO board president. “We’ve sold 83 percent of our (season ticket) goal for this season.” Ticket sales cover “only about 15 percent of our concert costs.”.

The greater Killeen area has seen steadily increasing ticket sales, Frentz added. “We extend a special welcome to the members of our active-duty military and their families in our audience and thank them for their service.”

This season’s inaugural concert at the Temple College Performing Arts Center was structured in the traditional, time-honored format of overture, concerto, interval and symphony.

From the first fulsome chords of Mozart’s comic opera “The Magic Flute” overture, the packed house was instantly spellbound by the unexpected polish and elegance of Fairlie’s 65 musicians.

Composed shortly before his death, the exuberant sonorities give no hint of Mozart’s dire condition, and the TSO’s performance pulsed with energy and life.

Pianist Frances Renzi lives in the Toledo, Ohio, area and first met Fairlie when both were associated with the University of Toledo.

The close rapport of conductor and soloist was immediately apparent — this is Renzi’s fourth appearance with the TSO — and the pair almost seemed to finish each other’s musical sentences.

This uncanny affinity was most striking in the second movement of the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4, when the musical conversation switched back and forth from piano to orchestra to great effect.

For tickets and information, go to www.TempleSymphony.org or call 254-778-6683.

The showy, unaccompanied solo cadenzas for the Beethoven concerto have proven a magnet to composers and performers: Brahms, Saint-Saens, Busoni, Rubenstein and others have written their versions, but Renzi chose the original ones by Beethoven for this concert.

Symphony No. 4 “Italian” by Felix Mendelssohn, a four movement classically scored cornerstone of symphonic literature, rounded out the evening. With difficult string passages and insistent rhythms, this piece gave ample evidence of the maturity and professionalism the TSO has attained. Fairlie kept the bar high with an urgency in the first movement, balanced by his spot-on tempo and dance-like reading of the finale, labeled “Saltarello” by the composer.

The TSO’s season includes two pops-themed concerts, an outing for the Temple Jazz Orchestra and an April 24 concert that again presents a traditional program: Beethoven’s “Fidelio” overture, Arutunian Trumpet Concerto and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. For tickets and information, go to www.TempleSymphony.org or call 254-778-6683.

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