Whats Playing? - Stamford Symphony opening concert

19. Oct. 2010 – First, thanks to Eckart Preu and the Stamford Symphony for opening their first weekend of concerts with "The Star-Spangled Banner." It was lustily sung by the large audience and lustily applauded.

There are pieces of music that are universally familiar in so many forms, and so frequently played by nearly every orchestra in the world, that to hear it suddenly become new to the ear is very special. Such a piece is the Symphony No. 5 in C minor of Ludwig van Beethoven. Who does not know the opening, four notes, "Ta-ta-ta Tah," sometimes called "Fate knocking at the door"? Listening to this work played by the Stamford Symphony under Maestro Preu, there were elements in this music that I had never heard before, no matter how often I've heard it. They were always there in the score, of course, but this time, there was moment after moment of intuitive playing from various parts of the ensemble that lifted a "familiar" work to a much higher realm of music-making. Preu's wittily astute notes prior to the performance were great to hear, but what he did with the music was extraordinary. Each movement has a different character, even though those familiar four notes kept coming back, and here Beethoven's genius was more and more obvious.From the opening variations on those notes, through a burnished Andante heralded by warm `cellos, which included some intricate fugal sections, and a gorgeous Allegro to a lift-you-off-your seat Finale, also marked Allegro, with its chorale-like main theme, and gem-like solos from individual instruments, this was an innovative, full blown

interpretation by the orchestra and Maestro Preu.

The afternoon opened with a charming presentation of Prokofiev's Symphony No.1, known as "The Classical." Each section is basically a dance form, but again, individual instrumental moments added fresh nuance. There was some superb unison violin playing, not always the easiest thing to achieve.

The glorious Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra by Johannes Brahms was graced by two outstanding soloists, Erica Kiesewetter, violinist and Edward Arron, cellist. Brahms' love of Hungarian music turns up in the final Vivace non troppo movement, and the entire piece is perfumed with the high romanticism of the period.

The playing of the soloists might be described as a sublime conversation, communication between two linked musical souls. The dark lyricism of some of the cello's music (especially in the Andante section) contrasted with the delicacy of the violin's voice as they sent their music back and forth in cascades of tone and virtuosity The orchestra, an integral part of the piece, played with sensitivity, making their own statements, but never overwhelming the soloists.

Maestro Preu conducts with freshness, style and knowledge. Even from the audience point of view, what he is asking for from the players is very clear, and he does it all with charm, strength and an occasional dance step. He loves making music, and because of that, although he works very, very hard, he is enjoying what he does so much that, whether on stage or in the audience, everyone present does, as well.

Onward with anticipation to the next concerts, Nov. 13 and 14, featuring music by Fredric Chopin and Franz Schubert, whose 200th birthday anniversaries are both being celebrated, and also by the estimable Romanian composer, György Ligeti.

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