|DSO Concertmaster, violinist David Southorn|
The Delaware Symphony Orchestra opened its 2016-17 Chamber Series Tuesday, October 18, at the Hotel du Pont’s Gold Ballroom with stellar performances of two of the most important works of the chamber music repertoire: Schoenberg’s Verklarte Nacht and Vivaldi’s iconic The Four Seasons.
Schoenberg and Vivaldi might seem like an odd pairing, but both works explore an insightful journey via the pictorial marriage between poetry and music.
Inspired by a poem by Richard Dehmel, Verklarte Nacht describes a conversation between a man and a woman as they walk through a dark forest under a brilliantly expressive night sky. The woman is pregnant with a child of a different man. The man she is walking with loves her and tells her he is prepared to accept her unborn child as his own.
The work unfolds in five sections which correspond to the structure of Dehmel’s poem. The various emotions of the two characters — love, pain, guilt, forgiveness — find their equivalents in Schoenberg’s passionate music, making the work one of the first examples of program music written for a chamber ensemble.
Originally scored for string sextet, DSO Music Director David Amado opted for the expanded version for string orchestra. The group of 22 strings produced a meaty performance that emphasized the dramatic structure of Verklarte Nacht but never at the expense of the score’s lyrical beauty. The textures were appropriately bass heavy, yet every line came through with exceptional clarity, allowing the counterpoint to drive the music and lead the ear through the dense harmonic web. The cadences, where suddenly a radiant major chord wells up from the dour depth, produced a profound sense of exaltation.
The second half of the program featured Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons — one of the most recognizable works of the classical music repertoire. Like Verklarte Nacht, The Four Seasons conveys a journey through spring, summer, autumn and winter. Each season is introduced by a poem, possibly composed by Vivaldi, that offers a description of what experiences the music is about to conjure up: The heat of summer; the peasant celebrations and imbibing of autumn; the violent storms of spring; and the cold and ice of winter.
DSO Concertmaster David Southorn was nothing less than brilliant as soloist in these four “evergreen” concertos. He delivered it all — a powerful sound; immaculate precision and compelling agility in the furious figurations of the fast sections; impeccable phrasing and a polished lyricism in the more tranquil sections. This was a zestful performance that continued unabated until the final note was struck.
Southorn was ably supported by the 22 string players. This was a beautifully balanced performance with a nice contrast between soloist and orchestra. The programmatic drama of the score was neither shortchange nor overdone, leaving the impression that each participant had contributed something important.