Showing posts with label Rachmaninoff. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rachmaninoff. Show all posts

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Enjoying the 'Three Rs' of DSO Music

By Christine Facciolo

Forget the three Bs. The Delaware Symphony Orchestra (DSO) capped off its 2018-19 season with works by 'the three Rs': Respighi, Rachmaninoff and…Rozsa?

You may not know his name, but chances are you’ve heard his music, especially if you’re a film buff. Miklos Rozsa (1907-1995) was a Hungarian-American composer best known for his film scores. Rozsa’s Hollywood career earned him considerable success and recognition, including 17 Oscar nominations and three wins for “Spellbound” (1945), “A Double Life” (1947) and “Ben-Hur” (1959).

Rozsa also remained faithful to his classical music roots with his compositions earning the plaudits of the likes of Jascha Heifetz, Gregor Piatigorsky and Janos Starker, who commissioned the work played this night.

The orchestra eased into the evening with a performance of Respighi’s highly descriptive symphonic poem the “Fountains of Rome.” Composed in 1916, the work remains a fine example of the brilliance with which Respighi uses the resources of the orchestra. (That’s not surprising since he was a student of Rimsky-Korsakov, who wrote the book on orchestration, both literally and figuratively).

The DSO invested its performance which much skill and care. The first movement, The Valle Guilia Fountain at Dawn, conveyed a distinctly bucolic tone, while the buoyancy of The Triton Fountain in the Morning conjured up images of water spouts. The solemnity of The Trevi Fountain at Mid-Day soon gave way to euphoria reminiscent of a classic Hollywood film score. The Villa Medici Fountain at Sunset provided a pastoral conclusion with notable contributions from the woodwinds. The expressive playing led to a distant tolling of a bell — in this instance one of the Kerrigan Bells of Remembrance — heralding the ebb of the music.

Cellist Nicholas Canellakis. Photo courtesy of artist.
Rozsa’s Cello Concerto, Op. 32 offered another palette, not to mention tangy harmonies and the rhythmic flair of the composer’s native Hungarian language. The first movement full of strong ideas and a cadenza of riveting virtuosity. By contrast, the central movement is lyrical and tinged with anguish. The final movement bristles with energy and — once again — rhythmic √©lan.

This is a stout, boldly communicative work that deserves and demands to be heard much more often. Kudos to DSO Music Director David Amado for programming it and to virtuoso cellist Nicholas Canellakis for learning it for this concert. (The work is so well-hidden that not even the majority of cellists know it exists.)

Canellakis is a highly articulate soloist who not only performs the music; he inhabits it. His impeccable technique enables him to remain confident and in control while executing the fiendishly difficult passages Rozsa throws at him (and there are many). That composure allows him to convert pyrotechnics into phrases that are rich in beauty and meaning.

The audience responded by breaking decorum with applause between movements. After three curtain calls, Canellakis obliged with a performance of the Sarabande from J.S. Bach’s Cello Suite, No. 1 in G major.

Following intermission, DSO Board Chairman Charles Babcock honored philanthropists Gerret and Tatiana Copeland for their support of the orchestra. Mrs. Copeland told the audience that she and her husband had their first date at The Grand. She also told the heartfelt story of how Rachmaninoff — “Uncle Sergei” to her — supported her family during a financial crisis.

The DSO’s rendering of the composer’s final symphony was equally heartfelt. Amado caught all the passion of the first movement while simultaneously retaining its lyrical qualities, defined the poetic elements of the second movement and concluded the symphony with all the energy and enthusiasm a finale deserves.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Closing the DSO Season with Love from Russia

By Christine Facciolo

The Delaware Symphony Orchestra (DSO) brought down the curtain on its 2016-17 Classics series on Friday, May 12 with a robust Russian program that included Stravinsky’s Ode, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concert No. 3 featuring soloist Sergei Babayan.

DSO Music Director David Amado assured the audience that the program was curated well in advance of the 2016 elections and was not meant to reflect events taking place on the international stage.

Delaware audiences don’t get to hear enough Russian music performed, so this was a real treat to hear it played with the kind of fervor and genuineness that were on display in The Grand Opera House.

Rachmaninoff has a reputation for writing dark, sultry and impossibly difficult piano music. The Third Concerto in particular is often considered to be the Mount Everest of Romantic pianism, an image long cemented in the public mind thanks to its appearance as a major plot device in the 1996 film “Shine,” based on the life of pianist David Helfgott.

Soloist Sergei Babayan was born in Armenia into a musical family. He trained at the prestigious Moscow Conservatory and has performed in some of the world’s most foremost venues, including Carnegie Hall in New York and Wigmore Hall in London.

Babayan offered a multidimensional reading that revealed the depth of both composer and artist. His bass notes thundered on demand and there was no shortage of dynamic punch but there were also moments of ecstatic passion and quiet repose. The DSO for its part provided either gentle support or a rousing call to arms. The communication between soloist and conductor was obvious.

The DSO also gave Amado 100% in Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 which followed the intermission. The first movement received an urgent performance yet one that was imbued with an appreciation of the composer’s balletic grace. The second movement was played in the manner of a song without words, allowing Tchaikovsky’s sumptuous melodies to soar. The string exhibited a pizzicato virtuosity in the brief scherzo while the finale crackled with plenty of rhythmic acuity from the strings and the woodwinds in their exchanges leading up to the various appearances of the “big tune.”

The program opened with Stravinsky’s Ode. Commissioned to mark the passing of Natalie Koussevitzky, the work manages only a fleeting elegiac tone in the bustling opening Eulogy. That element is reserved for the concluding Epitaph. The central Eclogue offers the most interesting music. Recycled from an abandoned “Jane Eyre” film project, this section features brilliant wind writing with its lively contrapuntal hunt motif nimbly executed by the DSO horns.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Another Festival Visit...More Excellent Music!

Guest blogger Maxine Gaiber is Executive Director of the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts and founding board director of the Delaware Arts Art Alliance. Her high school art teacher wrote in her yearbook, "be gentle as a critic," and she is finally following his advice!

The Delaware Chamber Music Festival Quartet.
Each time I attend the Delaware Chamber Music Festival, I am overwhelmed both by the quality of the performances and the enthusiasm of the audience.  And each time I gaze over the variegated sea of shades of gray hair around me, I worry about the future of classical music in the U.S.  Maybe each classical musical group should have a mandatory “bring your grandchild for free” day, so that a new generation can get “turned on” to this rewarding musical genre!
 
The Friday, June 21 Virtuosos concert was no exception.  I must admit that I lingered over my lo mein too long at the Chinese Festival and missed the Rachmaninoff piano trio, but the rest of the program more than made up for it.
 
Clancy Newman was brave to take on the well-known Brahms Sonata for Cello and Piano in E minor, Op.38, but seemed up to the task.  He gave a lyrical performance filled with stunning musical contrasts and emotional energy.  He plays the cello high up against his body almost like a bass and — surrounding the cello with his arms and head — becomes almost one with his instrument.
 
The two Paganini pieces which followed, while well performed by Barbara Govatos and Christiaan Taggart, seemed slight and restrained by contrast, as though the musicians were warming up for the jazzy, tango-based Piazolla work which was next on the program.  This first movement of the History of the Tango gave Govatos and Taggart more opportunity to show the range and versatility of their instruments.
 
Smetana’s Piano Trio in G Minor, Op.15 was a fitting finale to this virtuoso evening. Newman told the sad story of the composer dedicating the work to his daughter, who died at age 7, but it wasn’t really necessary.  The passionate work is filled with sadness, anger, tenderness, and joy and needs no back story to amplify its power. It is a beautiful ensemble piece that enables all of the instruments to perform as one, as well as shine on their own. Govatos’ firm control of her instrument and her head of unmoving tight curls were in sharp contrast to Newman’s dramatic poses and flying locks of hair, but, visual styles aside, they make beautiful music together and were ably complemented by Marcantonio Barone on the piano.
 
By the end of the evening, I was shaken and stirred and slightly tipsy from the brilliant concoctions of music that wafted from the stage of the Concert Hall of The Music School of Delaware. Bravo and salud!