Monday, November 16, 2009

It Takes a Special Person

There are tons of gifted musicians, but few who can communicate to others how to make better music. Tim Schwartz proved that he is one of those few with the wonderful performance he conducted of the Wilmington Community Orchestra at the Music School of Delaware on November 15.

The Bacchanal from Camille Saint-Saens’ opera Samson et Dalila showed me how far the WCO string section has come in intonation - providing a smooth background for the delightful snake charmer themes played by the oboe (Gary Walter), flute (Melinda Bowman, Susan Ryan, Emily Waddell) and clarinets (Michelle Webb and Anthony Pantelopulos). Sam Fuhrman’s cymbal playing had a long dynamic build-up which gave the frenzied color to the whole ballet. The spice of Melany Hoffman’s castanets and Debra Bialecki’s timpani added an exotic flavor.

In the Symphony No. 94 by Franz Josef Haydn, the Surprise Symphony, the strings also met the challenge, forming an excellent unison chorus behind solo winds. Susan Ryan’s flute entrances were spot on and the bassoon responses by Kathy Melvin in the Menuetto: Allegro Molto were clear and delightful. Laura Reimer’s first oboe part was delicate in its simple classical line.

But the pi├Ęce de resistance for me was the Second Piano Concerto in B-flat Major by Johannes Brahms. I had been listening to a record of Emil Gilels’ performance with the Berliner Philharmonic all week and had concluded that no mortal could play the piano part. Sandra Rivers walked out on stage, sat down and calmly proved me wrong. Her ability to bend to the orchestra showed her mastery of the piece. She made sure that not only were the difficult technical fireworks going to land in the right place, but that her playing could melt into the most delicious soft tones, lifting melody over absolutely quiet arpeggiations and accompaniments and taking the sound of the open lid piano so low that Jennifer Stomberg’s beautiful cello solo could resound without being crowded.

My hat is off to both Ms. Rivers and Mr. Schwarz for using their innate musical abilities and boundless energy to make such a successful performance possible for this dedicated amateur orchestra.

See. www.timothyscharz.com and www.wilmingtonmusic.org

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