Pasa Re­views Santa Fe Sym­phony with guest con­duc­tor Ryan McA­dams

Santa Fe Sym­phony Lensic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter, April 12

Pasatiempo - - NEWS -

Ryan McA­dams, the lat­est up-and-comer to as­cend the Santa Fe Sym­phony’s podium in a bid to be named the group’s prin­ci­pal con­duc­tor, scored a suc­cess when he led the orches­tra in a con­cert of Dvorˇák, Si­belius, and Brahms at the Lensic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter last Sun­day af­ter­noon. Dur­ing his five-year ten­ure as mu­sic direc­tor of the New York Youth Sym­phony (a se­ri­ously im­pres­sive orches­tra), both McA­dams and his crew were re­peat­edly hon­ored with AS­CAP Ad­ven­tur­ous Pro­gram­ming Awards, but this pro­gram com­prised familiar meat and pota­toes from start to fin­ish.

Four of Dvorˇák’s Slavonic Dances opened the af­ter­noon with lusty vigor, the orches­tra prov­ing en­thu­si­as­tic, if a bit boomy, in the loud ex­panses — which is to say fre­quently. Lis­ten­ers would not have guessed that many mea­sures of the open­ing Furi­ant (Op. 46, No. 1) are marked pi­anis­simo; and even in the more re­strained Dumka (Op. 72, No. 2), the orches­tra did not of­fer the tech­ni­cal breadth to trace the al­most con­stant dy­namic gra­da­tion of Dvorˇák’s score. McA­dams con­ducted clearly and help­fully, pro­vid­ing req­ui­site cues with­out en­gag­ing in note-by-note pan­tomime. He built phrases log­i­cally from point A to point B, and one imag­ined that, given the op­por­tu­nity to pur­sue some long-term orches­tra build­ing, he might coax the en­sem­ble into breath­ing and bow­ing more del­i­cate lift into those phrases.

Vi­o­lin­ist Alexi Ken­ney was an im­pres­sive soloist in Si­belius’ Vi­o­lin Con­certo, play­ing through­out with tech­ni­cal pre­ci­sion and metic­u­lous in­to­na­tion. It is not re­ally a young man’s con­certo, and at twenty-one, Ken­ney ap­peared not yet en­tirely in sync with the em­bit­tered pon­der­ings of the down­cast Finn. His in­ter­pre­ta­tion ac­cord­ingly steered more to­ward aris­to­cratic el­e­gance than the an­guish or cyn­i­cism that seem to be the work’s hall­marks. His next steps as he grows with this con­certo will most likely in­volve drawing more rich­ness out of his lower strings and giv­ing him­self per­mis­sion to in­flict grit­ti­ness or even vi­o­lence in articulating some of its phrases. In fact, he did al­low him­self more un­but­toned free­dom in the first of his en­cores, the un­ac­com­pa­nied Tango-Étude No. 3 by Pi­az­zolla, af­ter which he of­fered a re­fined ren­di­tion of an alle­mande by the mid-Baroque com­poser Jo­hann Paul von Westhoff. It is rare to en­counter a young vi­o­lin­ist at such an ad­vanced point of devel­op­ment who works from a de­fault po­si­tion of con­comi­tant tech­ni­cal and mu­si­cal pu­rity. I hope we will have the op­por­tu­nity to hear him again in Santa Fe as he con­tin­ues along the highly promis­ing path on which he has em­barked.

Fol­low­ing in­ter­mis­sion, the orches­tra tack­led Brahms’ brawny Sym­phony No. 1, and dur­ing the first move­ment it re­al­ized sus­tained mu­sic-mak­ing at a high level. McA­dams led a clearly plot­ted, pas­sion­ate read­ing, a fully fin­ished in­ter­pre­ta­tion that earned the mu­si­cians’ ob­vi­ous com­mit­ment. The orches­tra’s lim­i­ta­tions were on more fre­quent dis­play in the en­su­ing move­ments, although much of the play­ing was ad­mirable. Con­cert­mas­ter David Fel­berg de­served top marks for his solo pas­sages in the sec­ond move­ment. In the in­tro­duc­tion to the fi­nale, the an­tiphonal work among the horns was sim­i­larly spot on, as was the chorale of the trom­bones, even if the tex­ture that sur­rounded them did not achieve quite the at­mos­phere of hushed sub­lim­ity the pas­sage in­vites. But McA­dams’ in­stincts and as­pi­ra­tions seemed in the right place, and one was left won­der­ing what the orches­tra might ac­com­plish un­der his on­go­ing guid­ance.

— James M. Keller

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