Stamford Symphony makes it sound easy
18. Feb. 2013 – There are two kinds of music that are not what they appear to be.
There is music that sounds like it would be hard to play, but is actually idiomatic and not as difficult as it might seem. Then there is the music that formed the program of the Stamford Symphony's most recent concert in the Harmon Orchestra Classics Series; music that sounds easy, but is very challenging to perform.
The evening began with an engaging performance ofthe Pulcinella Suite by Stravinsky. This work was a tipping point in Stravinsky's career; it was his discovery that he could interact with musical styles of the past and not compromise his creative identity. The suite consists entirely of music attributed to Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736) and to several of his contemporaries.
The music sounded elegant and was filled with haunting tunes, many scored for oboe and played with insight by Melanie Feld. Intermixed within this baroque music was the humor of Stravinsky; he inserted extensions, unexpected notes, parodies, and short transitions made from completely original music that still fit within the style.
The SSO, conducted by Music Director and Conductor Eckart Preu, dug deeply into the balance of elements that comprised these seemingly simple surfaces and showed their underlying richness.
Pianist George Li joined the orchestra as soloist in the Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor. Li is 17 years old and a student at the Walnut Hill School and the New England Conservatory Preparatory School. The Mendelssohn concerto is built from musical textures that are completely exposed, and Li played them with sophisticated clarity. In the third movement his unique sense of humor had room to become articulated. The audience gave him a thunderous standing ovation and Li played two encores by Chopin: the Nocturne in C-sharp minor Op. 27 No. 1, then the Etude in C-sharp minor Op. 10 No. 4.
After intermission concertmaster Erica Kiesewetter was soloist in "Fratres" by the living Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. This work was a study in sonic meditation and was constructed with the logical perfection of a Platonic solid. The work required its own special kind of concentration, from performers and audience members alike, and it was a welcome inclusion on this program.
The evening closed with Mozart's final symphony; the "Jupiter" in C major. This famous piece seems ever present; it is the cornerstone of almost all music-appreciation classes and passages from it are frequently used in advertisements. But Preu took care with each gesture in the work and the orchestra gave a detailed performance that made the music sound refreshing. Particularly impressive was the second movement, where the chromatic lines of countermelody had the perfect amount of friction against the gorgeous, but (only) seemingly simple tunes they accompany.