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Center Stage: Fort Myers Community Concerts opens season with hit

By Staff | Jan 21, 2020

Marsha Wagner

The Fort Myers Community Concerts kicked off its 71st season in grand style last week. Mary Lee Mann, the hard working president of Community Concerts, welcomed the audience in her usual enthusiastic style, reminding us that the reason ticket prices are so low – an evening’s concert can cost as little as $13 – due to the fact that the series is run and presented by an all-volunteer group of devoted people. Thank you, friends and neighbors.

The NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic is known to be at the very heart of the Polish music scene. This amazing group of musicians is comprised of 94 members, most of whom look to be young and enthusiastic. The program notes on the orchestra explained that it was founded in 1945 as both a symphony and an opera orchestra. In 1949 it became the State Opera Orchestra and only held sporadic symphony concerts until 1954, when it became independent. In 1994 it opened Wroclaw’s new concert hall, then in 2015 it became the NFM (National Forum of Music) Wroclaw Philharmonic. Regardless of its short history, all I can say as an audience member is wow! What an outstanding orchestra.

Wroclaw Philharmonic Conductor Giancarlo Guerrero is just as impressive as the orchestra. Guerrero is a six-time Grammy Award-winning conductor. Speaking of impressive, the same could be said of Wroclaw’s solo pianist David Fray, who is also a holder of multiple prestigious awards. As you have probably guessed by now, this opening night of Community Concerts was an outstanding evening of great music brilliantly performed, leading to multiple standing ovations and a double-encore finale.

The evening kicked off with “Concert Overture in E major, Op. 12” by Karol Szymanowski – a Polish overture unfamiliar to me – performed impeccably. That rousing opener was followed by another Polish composer, Frederic Chopin. Fray and the orchestra played Chopin’s famed “Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor.” I know this piece as the music used for Petipa’s legendary classic ballet “Les Sylphide,” and I have never heard it played so beautifully; its depth and tenderness brought tears to my eyes. Bravo Fray and the Wroclaw! The enthusiastic standing ovation brought us to intermission. I must point out one thing, I have never seen before Fray seated on three stacked chairs instead of the usual piano bench. How’s that for weird?

The reading of Dvorak’s “Symphony No. 9 in E Minor Op 95” from the New World Symphony was so well performed that it brought the entire audience to its feet, like a shot. This enthusiasm leaded to the orchestra and our generous conductor, Guerrero, to play not one but two encores. One was another Dvorak piece – the name I cannot recall – followed by a lively piece, Johann Strauss II’s “Thunder and Lightning Polka.” The last one sent the audience home with grins from ear to ear and left this audience member in a giddy frame of mind and looking forward to the next Community Concert on Jan. 27, when the Siberian State Symphony Orchestra takes center stage at the Barbara B. Mann. Just in case you’re not a member of Community Concerts, you might try calling the office at 239-489-4171 to see if they have any extra seats available. If you phone, remind ’em Marsha sent you.