Pasa Re­views

Santa Fe Sym­phony con­ducted by Guillermo Figueroa

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The Santa Fe Sym­phony’s per­for­mance last Sun­day seemed like two sep­a­rate con­certs: a medi­ocre one be­fore in­ter­mis­sion and a pretty good one af­ter, the halves shar­ing lit­tle in terms of vi­sion or ex­e­cu­tion. The more suc­cess­ful, post-in­ter­mis­sion por­tion was an agree­able read­ing of Dvorák’s˘ Sym­phony No. 8, to which guest con­duc­tor Guillermo Figueroa must have de­voted most of the re­hearsal time. He plot­ted the piece at a swiftly mov­ing yet com­fort­able pace, rarely lux­u­ri­at­ing in the more pas­toral ex­panses. He none­the­less achieved a pleas­ing lilt in the slow se­cond move­ment, par­tic­u­larly in the con­trast­ing episode 47 mea­sures i n, where solo f lute and oboe sing out their melody against a gen­tle ac­com­pa­ni­ment of vi­o­lins play­ing de­scend­ing scales in sixths, the whole set above vi­o­las and cel­los pluck­ing gen­tle pizzi­catos. One wishes that more spans had been in­vested with as much char­ac­ter in what was mostly a lit­eral in­ter­pre­ta­tion.

Figueroa i s one of t he fi­nal­ists un­der con­sid­er­a­tion to be­come t he or­ches­tra’s next chief con­duc­tor. On the podium he seemed com­fort­able in his own skin, not con­cerned with in­di­cat­ing ev­ery jot and tiddle, which would nor­mally be su­per­flu­ous when work­ing with a pro­fes­sional or­ches­tra. As a con­duc­tor, he took a min­i­mally in­ter­ven­tion­ist ap­proach. If only he had in­ter­vened more in the first half!

The con­cert opened with We­ber’s Over­ture to Der Freis­chütz. To put it more pre­cisely, it opened twice, since the mu­si­cians fell into op­pos­ing fac­tions in de­cid­ing where Figueroa’s down­beat resided. No mat­ter, one thought; surely they would agree four bars later, when the mu­sic re­peats at a dif­fer­ent pitch level. Again, a dou­ble at­tack. Rhyth­mic non-si­mul­tane­ities con­tin­ued to plague the piece, as did bal­ance is­sues be­tween the winds and strings, the lat­ter sound­ing more wan than they have in re­cent out­ings. One never sensed the pent-up evil wait­ing to ex­plode in this piece. It was a Freis­chütz Over­ture largely de­void of ten­sion, a pos­si­bil­ity I would not have pre­vi­ously con­sid­ered likely.

Vi­o­lin­ist Michael Lud­wig then ap­peared as t he guest soloist in Mozart’s Vi­olin Con­certo No. 5. The Sym­phony’s ad­vance pub­lic­ity called spe­cial at­ten­tion to this con­certo’s “bril­liant or­ches­tra­tion” — a hard claim to jus­tify in this jour­ney­man work, and in­com­pre­hen­si­ble in light of the lack­lus­ter ren­di­tion it re­ceived. The prin­ci­pal dis­tinc­tion of Lud­wig’s play­ing was his sweet­ness of tone. That cer­tainly qual­i­fies as a pos­i­tive at­tribute, but, lack­ing sonic va­ri­ety over the course of the three move­ments, the ex­pe­ri­ence grew sac­cha­rine. Even the so- called “Turk­ish” mu­sic in the fi­nale showed not much kick. The Ada­gio ad­hered to a som­no­lent tempo, and the ca­den­zas all fell f lat, with the soloist dol­ing them out phrase-by-phrase, grind­ing to one halt af­ter an­other. Nei­ther the con­duc­tor nor the or­ches­tra con­veyed af­fec­tion for Mozart’s score. — James M. Keller

Guillermo Figueroa

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