Wednesday, October 5, 2016
By Christine Facciolo
The Music School of Delaware opened its 2016-17 season Wednesday, September 28, 2016 by gifting its supporters with gorgeous renderings of two of the best loved works for string orchestra: Grieg’s Holberg Suite and Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C Major.
Maestro Simeone Tartaglione conducted a string orchestra composed of music school faculty and three invited guests violists Sheila Browne and Marka Stepper and bassist Arthur Marks.
The program opened with Grieg’s Holberg Suite for String Orchestra. Composed to honor the memory of 18th Century Norwegian writer Ludvig Holberg, Grieg cast the work in the musical language of the 18th Century. Tartaglione applied a light touch, playing up the individual character of each of the work’s dance-like movements.
Following the brisk opening Praeludium was a stately Sarabande featuring a lovely dialogue between cellists Lawrence Stomberg and Eric Coyne. The Gavotte recalled the formality of the court while the Musette contrasted with a folksong quality. The deeper strings imparted a profound solemnity to the Air, one of Grieg’s most beautiful creations. The concluding Rigaudon paid tribute to Norwegian folk violinists as it featured some virtuosic bowing by concertmaster Stefan Xhori.
Tartaglione conducted with authority and passion as he led the orchestra through Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C Major, an intensely personal work that the composer intended as homage to Mozart whom he viewed as the “Christ of music.” The Serenade is in a vastly different league than the Holberg: Rich in harmonic and melodic invention, it is also more abstract in character and hence more enduring.
The Serenade is Tchaikovsky at his brilliant best and Tartaglione and the musicians did it proud with flair, charm and beauty of tone. The orchestra was nimble and agile in its execution of the second movement — the Valse — with its numerous and sudden harmonic shifts. The third movement — the Elegie with its fugal elements — was ensemble playing at its best. The Finale was played with great virtuosity, bringing the concert to a close with rousing applause.