Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Delaware Symphony Chamber Series

The Saint Paul’s Suite is a joyous collage of folk tunes which Gustav Holst wrote to express his gratitude for a soundproof studio provided by his employers at Saint Paul’s Girls School. The string chamber ensemble of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra (DSO) made it a glorious celebration of sound — from the dancing Jig to the exciting dance of the second violins in the Ostinato, the popping pizzicato of the Intermezzo and impressive first violin solos by Erika Miller to the resounding echoes of Greensleeves against the Dargason in the Finale. A great piece in the hands of great musicians is a treat.

Jeffrey O’Donnell was in top form playing the Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Concerto in A minor for oboe and strings.  Although I heard many recordings in preparing for this review, I felt Mr. O’Donnell produced the most rounded tone, smoother than any of the recordings I found. Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote the piece for oboe virtuoso Leon Goosens and left little space for the oboe to rest.  Mr. O’Donnell seemed to have no trouble with the demanding part and even made his sound have a punchier and more reedy character for the Minuet and Musette, calling to mind a bagpipe. The seventeen-member chamber orchestra was perfect for the balance, the room and the piece. The ensemble and soloist had plenty of energy and power left for the effervescent Finale.

The Serenade in E Major for string orchestra, op. 22 by Antonin Dvorak was yet another style of composing with folk inspiration. The composition is a wonderful canvas on which to illustrate the great strings of the DSO. The audience could experience the fine bass playing by Daniel McDougall and Arthur Marks and get the full thrust of the viola section as rarely heard so clearly in full orchestra. The high notes of the three celli alternating with the violins seemed effortless. The flexible response to Maestro Amado’s ritardandi in the Scherzo and the sheer joy of the performance convinced me that the donations by those who would save the DSO have been well worth the investment — and the large audience indicates the investment will benefit us all.


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