Showing posts with label Beethoven. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Beethoven. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

DSO Welcomes the Holiday with Chamber Music Duo

By Christine Facciolo

Chamber music continued Tuesday, December 11, at the Gold Ballroom at the Hotel du Pont, featuring Delaware Symphony Orchestra principals David Southorn, violin and Lura Johnson, piano. Southern prefaced the performance by saying that he and Johnson had been looking forward to the concert for more than a year.

The fruits of their partnership were abundantly evident in the program featuring works by Beethoven, Britten and Franck.

The duo opened the program with Beethoven’s Violin Sonata in G minor, No. 8, Op. 30, No. 3 which they played with such panache that it’s doubtful whether anyone in the audience questioned why they didn’t choose between the more famous Kreutzer and Spring sonatas.

This sonata, the last in the set, has a gorgeous inner movement that gave Southorn a beautiful melody which he rendered with a generous but light vibrato. Johnson teased our rhythms, finding every opportunity to every so slightly delay a beat. The final movement is like a folk dance, which the musicians cheerily performed.

There was an abrupt gear shift with the wit and quick-fire kaleidoscope of styles in Britten’s Suite, Op. 6, for Violin and Piano. The March, which was played twice in place of the Moto perpetuo, was fearless, vigorous and playful. Southorn squeezed every bit of expression out of the sparse music of the Lullaby, giving a moving and personal performance. The Waltz was remarkably wild yet controlled with the playing always in sync.

The second half of the program was devoted to Franck’s Sonata in A major. Composed in 1886 as a wedding present to violinist Eugene Ysaye, Southorn rendered it with all the warm lyricism the composer intended. The Allegretto ben moderato had the audience spellbound in a pastoral serenity.

A restless energy marked the second movement (Allegro) featuring biting attacks by Southorn. The virtuoso piano part, with its swirling arpeggios, was played with an equal measure of energy. After the recitative of the Recitativo-Fantasia, ben moderato, Southorn and Johnson showed their shared understanding of the beautiful Fantasia.

The final movement, the Allegretto poco mosso, had the violin and piano driving forward with ever mounting excitement, starting in canon and spiraling up to zealous heights of impassioned dialogue. Johnson’s hands flew over the merciless chords, and as in the earlier selections, the two players seemed fearless and impetuous but always in control. This was a full-blooded rendering with conviction that earned them a well-deserved standing ovation.

Monday, February 19, 2018

DSO Celebrates First Sellout in Five Years

Guest soloist, Elena Urioste (violin). 
By Christine Facciolo
Concertgoers were treated to an evening of the savage and the sublime as the Delaware Symphony Orchestra opened the second half of its 2017-18 season Friday, January 26, at The Grand Opera House in Wilmington.

The program consisted of just two works: Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major with the critically acclaimed Elena Urioste making a return appearance as guest soloist.

The event also marked a milestone: it was the first sold-out concert in five years.

DSO Music Director David Amado chose to open the concert with the Stravinsky work — something that’s seldom done — saying it would be particularly effective for audience members rushing to their seats to hear the opening bassoon solo, which was gracefully delivered by DSO Principal Bassoonist Erik Holtje.

The 81 members of the DSO were supplemented by an additional 22 musicians to perform the work in its original version.

Anyone who thought The Rite of Spring had lost its edge over time would have left Copeland Hall thinking otherwise. Stravinsky’s score throbbed with primitive eroticism until the very last chord was struck. The performance was as thrilling as anyone could have wanted: a powerful mixture of alien harmonies and jagged rhythms, virtuosity and controlled savagery.

You could feel the sacrifice happening around you. The bass drum and timpani add a fierceness to the “Ritual of Abduction,” the double basses an earthiness to the “Spring Rounds.” The bass clarinet added heft to the winds while brazen brass howled at the height of the ritual.

The Stravinsky/Beethoven pairing made perfect sense when one considers that The Rite of Spring redefined 20th Century music much as Beethoven’s Eroica had transformed music a century earlier.

Friday’s performance marked the return of violinist Elena Urioste. Urioste last appeared with the DSO in 2010 when she soloed in the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. The 32-year-old has enjoyed many career milestones since then, most notably being selected a BBC 3 New Generation Artist in 2012.

Urioste is a triple threat, with copious amounts of beauty, brains and talent. She was genuinely thrilled to be playing again with the DSO and it showed. Clad in a floor-length black gown, she took an expansive view of this long and repetitive work that is considered one of the most difficult in the genre.

Right from the opening tutti, which Urioste played along with the orchestra, her performance was joyful and congenial. She was profound without being pretentious in the first movement; lyrical without sentimentality in the larghetto; and playful without being frivolous in the final rondo. Her intonation was spot-on, letting the extremely high notes ring with an impressive resonance. Her impeccable technique allowed her to toss off the bravura passages with crispness and clarity, the softer passages with sublime sensitivity.

The audience showed its appreciation immediately after the first movement, when it broke concert protocol to applaud amidst gasps of “Wow!” Those lucky enough to have gotten tickets for this performance summoned Urioste back with three curtain calls, hoping that they wouldn’t have to wait another eight years for her return.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

DSO Concludes Its 2016-17 Season Celebrating Beethoven

By Christine Facciolo
A Beethoven overture followed by a Beethoven concerto followed by a Beethoven symphony. It doesn’t get much better than — that unless you factor in solid performances in a lush garden venue on a perfect early summer evening.

The Delaware Symphony Orchestra under the direction of David Amado gave a post-season performance in the open-air theatre at Longwood Gardens that continued the orchestra’s year-long exploration of the works of Ludwig van Beethoven.

The opening offering, the Coriolan Overture, was written in 1807 intended for Heinrich Joseph von Collin’s tragic play Coriolan, which was about the semi-legendary Roman figure Gaius Marcius Coriolanus. The work loosely follows the course of the play, beginning with some emphatic declamatory chords followed by an anxious scurrying motif. The first part is cast in a minor key depicting a bellicose Coriolanus and his intention to invade Rome. The move to a gentler theme in a major key suggests a softening of his attitude as he yields to his mother’s pleas not to invade the city. He has, however, brought his army to Rome’s gates and cannot turn back, so he kills himself. The performance was as fierce as the music, allowing Amado to demonstrate to perfection his control of the orchestra and its dynamics.

The highlight of the evening was Peter Serkin, one of the great pianists of our time, playing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2. It was hard not to feel starstruck by such an accomplished musician, and when he walked onstage with a relaxed smile, he seemed not only confident but relaxed and generous.

This work, which Beethoven wrote before the first piano concerto, features some of the composer’s most famous tunes. Serkin, who is obviously very familiar with this concerto, gave the first movement a delicate and elegant reading. He captured the serenity and spirituality of the second movement with a personal and beautifully touching interpretation. The third movement was all fun as it introduced the theme in an off-beat rhythm. (Later when the theme is played on the beat, it almost sounds wrong.) The tempo was well-judged and the interplay between orchestra and soloist was well-nuanced under Amado’s direction.

After the break, the evening continued with the Symphony No. 4, an Amado favorite but one that continues, unfortunately, to be underrated given its position between the “Eroica” and the ubiquitous Fifth.

The first movement opened with a tension-filled Adagio which gave way to a vigorous Allegro with striking dynamic contrasts, including some mellow sounds from the woodwind section. The Adagio was beautifully sculpted with some very effective soft-playing mid-movement. The finale scampered along with a strength and brio that characterized the entire performance.

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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Pyxis Brings Beethoven & Faure to Life on Market

Pyxis Piano Quartet performs at Market Street Music.
Photo by Joe Gawinski.
By Christine Facciolo
Market Street Music welcomed spring and Pyxis Piano Quartet to its Festival Concert series on Sunday, March 19, 2017, which paired Beethoven’s String Trio in G major with Faure’s Piano Quartet in C minor.

The Opus 9 string trios offer a fascinating portrait of the young composer bursting with ideas as he took a musical form born as the baroque trio sonata and gave it new life as only he could. But as striking as they are, they represent the last gasp for a form that would soon be eclipsed by the string quartet.

Pyxis wisely chose the first Trio of Op. 9, a gem from its opening note to its last. This performance of the longest and most difficult of the trios earned the ensemble a well-deserved ovation. The opening and closing movements were technically perfect in every dimension. The wonderful slow movement with its pastoral theme in the distant key of E major received a most moving, heart-longing treatment. The breadth of expressiveness was especially remarkable considering the movement’s simplicity of form.

A proper contrast to the Adagio came with the buoyancy of the Scherzo and then with even more vitality a throw-caution-to-the-wind finale. All in all, a fitting performance of one of Beethoven’s “best works so far.”

Violist Amy Leonard introduced the Faure Piano Quartet by telling the audience that while she and her colleagues couldn’t offer Paris in springtime, they could bring a bit of the city into First & Central Presbyterian Church.

Leonard also noted that while the work is cast in a minor key, it’s a “happy minor,” with a positive tone albeit with some hints in the slow movement of the turmoil in Faure’s personal life at the time of composition.

Leonard contextualized the work by noting that just as Beethoven was a transitional figure between the Classical and Romantic periods, Faure stood at the crossroads of the Romantic and modern eras. Indeed, Romanticism and its doleful heroics are left behind in this work. The first movement is a fluid blending of energy and lyricism. The high-spirited and virtuosic Scherzo delights with pizzicato-pricked perpetuum mobile fantasy. The grand Adagio imbues profound passion with classical restraint and balance. A soaring Allegro caps all with a shimmering major/minor gaiety.

Balance, ensemble, superb intonation and sensitive interpretation characterized this performance. None of the loud passages were overplayed. When one player had a solo passage, they came out just enough then returned to their dynamic place.

Special honors go to pianist Hiroko Yamazaki. Pianists have a special balance problem when playing in quartets because the sound of their instrument is so much fuller than a single string instrument. Not so here. Yamazaki was always at the correct level. Quite remarkable!


Monday, April 11, 2016

Album Review: Jennifer Campbell, "Perceptions of Shadows"

By Christine Facciolo
It might seem a bit presumptuous for a young pianist to include her own compositions on her debut CD and to christen the project with the title of one of said works.

But Jennifer Nicole Campbell is not just any other pianist. Barely out of conservatory (Peabody Class of ’14) — this young artist must surely possess a bookshelf sagging under the weight of the awards she’s already won.

Those talents are brilliantly displayed in this “a-little-bit-of-everything” recording, the 10 tracks of which range from the baroque to the contemporary.

Campbell was assured and absolutely engrossing in Beethoven’s Sonata No. 30 in E Major (Op. 109) and Chopin’s Nocturne in C-sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 1. The former was written in 1820 when Beethoven was completely deaf. After the huge Hammerklavier sonata (Op. 106), this work marks a return to a smaller and more intimate character, one might even say, confessional. Campbell applies an appropriately gentle touch to the first movement before launching into the ferocity of the second. The calm and fragile tone of the cantabile theme of the final movement — a set of variations — provides a nice and welcome retreat.

Chopin was undoubtedly the master of the piano miniature and his Nocturnes are the best of the best. Some are profoundly beautiful while others, like the Nocturne in C-sharp minor (Op. 27, No. 1), express pathos, tragedy, even hopelessness. Written in 1845 when the composer knew he was sick with tuberculosis, this is as personal a statement as Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. Campbell’s approach is emotional without being sentimental, balanced and clearly shaded, allowing the music’s passion to emerge.

Purists might prefer their Bach played on a harpsichord. The reason is a simple and valid one: the harpsichord has a sharper tone than the piano, giving the lines more “pop.”

No matter. Campbell displays a firm grasp of Bach’s architecture, delivering a performance of the French Suite No. 3 in B minor that is appropriately sharp in contour with plenty of vibrancy and poignancy.

Campbell shows equal mastery of the music of Debussy. Her control of voicing in “Cloches a travers les feuilles” from Images, Book II is a marvel as is her ability to coax some breathtakingly subtle shades from her instrument.

Campbell is equally brilliant as she evokes the shimmering luminosity of the technically daunting “Sundrops over Windy Water” from Three Etudes (2012) by the young Israeli composer Avner Dorman.

The inclusion of David Auldon Brown’s Sonata I (1977, rev. 2008) was a splendid example of the contemporary idiom to the traditional sonata form. The composer revised the work especially for Campbell during her study at the Darlington Arts Center.

The CD concludes with two of Campbell’s self-penned works: Perceptions of Shadows, which pairs quite nicely with the Debussy and the masterful tongue-in-cheek Variations on Simple Gifts, which will surely have you playing “name-that-tune.”