Stamford Symphony: A program that read like a good book
05. Nov. 2012 – A well-designed program of classical orchestral music can develop over the course of an evening, and the Stamford Symphony continued its 2012-2013 season with a program that had the coherence of good storytelling.
The idea that bound most of the works was the Baroque principle of the Concerto Grosso, where a small group of musicians is contrasted with the larger forces of the orchestra as a whole. Beyond that concept, the music systematically progressed from the feel of intimate chamber music to romantic orchestral panoramas.
The concert began with the Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G Major by Bach.
This work and several others during the course of the evening featured Erica Kiesewetter, not in her usual role as concertmaster but as violin soloist. She was joined by Bart Feller and Kathleen Nester as flute soloists. It remains unclear to scholars exactly which wind instruments Bach intended for this concerto, and during the preconcert lecture Feller, Nester, and orchestral librarian and flute player David Carp demonstrated the various possibilities. During the performance Feller and Nester played on modern silver flutes with wooden head joints because they felt that that gave them the best of the modern and early music worlds.
The three soloists set up at center stage without a conductor. Music Director and Conductor Eckart Preu sat directly behind them playing continuo. The quality of chamber music made among friends was unmistakable.
The next Concerto Grosso featured was by Handel, it was the Op. 3 No. 2 concerto in Bb major (the program incorrectly listed Op. 3 no. 1). For this concerto and for the "Concerto Grosso" by Avner Dorman (bn. 1975) that followed, Preu conducted from the front of the ensemble but stood on the floor, which represented a transition away from the chamber music setting toward more formal orchestral playing.
The Dorman "Concerto Grosso" had the perfect setting on this half of the concert. Its ingenious textures and rich play of ideas was engaging, and the ensemble played with careful attention to balances and the interplay of sound colors.
After intermission Preu conducted from a podium, and the music completed the narrative by locking into richer, more full orchestral textures.
The "Autumn Rhapsody" by Pierre Jalbert had interesting moments but as a composition it over-resolved its own energy. Nonetheless it was given a good performance and it gave us a break from the concerto principle.
The concert closed with "The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires," by Astor Piazzolla in the infamous violin concerto arrangement by Leonid Desyatnikov. Kiesewetter returned as violin soloist and was impressive from start to finish. She is well-known for her amazing musicianship; she is freakishly smart, always sensible, and deeply respected by anyone who has the good fortune to hear her play on a regular basis. This concerto allowed her to unleash her inner rock star. The passionate dance idiom of this music sparkled through her collection of technical and musical expertise. Cellist Caroline Stinson also contributed memorable solos throughout the concerto.
Unlike the Vivaldi "Seasons" the Piazzolla "Seasons" are not fixed in their order of performance. Preu chose to avoid a chronological ordering.
He started with the Spring concerto and then worked his way backward through a year: Spring was followed by Winter, Autumn, and finally Summer. This sequence opened with a fugue, followed by a slow movement, by a dance, and closed with a work which brought us back to Baroque references. The ordering brought out a symphonic structure in the concerto, and brought an effective closure to the ideas that organized this concert. The work received an enthusiastic standing ovation.