Lis­ten Up

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - Moun­tain String Lake, String, To the Point, Ada­gio. Cold dolce

Con­certs from Santa Fe Pro Mu­sica and Santa Fe Sym­phony

Orches­tra sea­son got up and run­ning dur­ing the past two week­ends as Santa Fe Pro Mu­sica, led by Thomas O’Con­nor, gave its first con­certs of 2016-2017 on Sept. 17 and 18 (we caught the lat­ter), and the Santa Fe Sym­phony, with guest con­duc­tor Rod­er­ick Cox, did the same on Sept. 25, in both cases at the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter. About a fifth of the play­ers over­lap between the two groups, which in part re­flects the avail­able tal­ent pool. The shared per­son­nel are most prom­i­nent in the strings, and within that fam­ily, es­pe­cially in the vi­o­lins. In fact, the big­gest chal­lenge for or­ches­tral pro­gram­ming here­abouts must be to select reper­toire that is within rea­son­ably firm grasp of the vi­o­lins — not just the chairs to­ward the front but through­out the depth of the sec­tions. Winds and per­cus­sion present less of a per­son­nel chal­lenge. An orches­tra re­quires far fewer rep­re­sen­ta­tives of each of those in­stru­men­tal groups, and there are usually plenty of adept prac­ti­tion­ers to fill an en­sem­ble’s needs. This is the area from which the two or­ches­tras de­rive most of their dis­tinct sonic pro­files, dis­play­ing rel­a­tive strengths in this or that wind depart­ment. Speak­ing of over­lap, should you go to a con­cert of the New Mex­ico Phil­har­monic in Albuquerque, you would find that half of that orches­tra con­sists of faces fa­mil­iar from one or the other (or both) of these Santa Fe or­ches­tras.

O’Con­nor met the string chal­lenge head-on in his Pro Mu­sica con­cert by in­clud­ing three short move­ments for strings alone by Jen­nifer Hig­don, the much-played Amer­i­can com­poser whose opera

was pre­miered here a summer ago. Of those three items, the most ap­peal­ing was the mid­dle one,

a placid piece in which she gave free rein to her Bar­beresque propen­si­ties. The mu­si­cians achieved lux­u­ri­ous tone borne on rich, dense har­monies, while an ex­panse spot­light­ing the prin­ci­pal play­ers was laud­able in its pre­ci­sion and trans­parency. The pro­gram note sug­gested that the open­ing piece of the trip­tych, had some con­nec­tion to the sounds of the In­done­sian game­lan that in­spired De­bussy. Brit­ten or Bloch crossed my mind in­stead of De­bussy or game­lan; and in any case, this perky fu­gato struck me as a rather pro-forma piece in which Hig­don un­spooled her mu­sic in rote-like fash­ion. The third piece, came off as a sim­plis­tic com­po­si­tion, a neo-mod­ernist ef­fort that wended its way to a folksy jig. It in­volved much trad­ing-off of lines among the string in­stru­ments, which was ac­com­plished with fi­nesse, and it chal­lenged the vi­o­lins by goos­ing them way up into their high range.

The con­cert be­gan with an en­joy­able ren­di­tion of Beethoven’s Sym­phony No. 4, one of the com­poser’s finest achieve­ments in the field of comedy. The fast move­ments bus­tled along ge­nially. The slow move­ment was on the quick side, too, or so it felt; in fact, it may have been less a mat­ter of the tempo per se than of spirit, which did not re­ally seem at­tuned to the idea of an One al­ways looks for­ward to the be­gin­ning of the re­ca­pit­u­la­tion in the last move­ment. There, where one would ex­pect the full orches­tra to pound out the main theme, Beethoven in­stead gives the tune to just a solo bas­soon, chortling along mer­rily (and marked — sweetly — which I think was per­haps a wicked taunt from the com­poser). Bas­soon­ist Craw­ford Best did well by it.

Hig­don had of­fered us pre­mo­ni­tions of Bar­ber. The sec­ond half was given over to Bar­ber him­self, which is, on the whole, to be pre­ferred. Joshua Ro­man was the charis­matic soloist in the com­poser’s Cello Con­certo, which is not quite so win­ning an achieve­ment as Bar­ber’s Vi­olin Con­certo but does not fall far short of it. Ro­man’s in­ter­pre­ta­tions of con­tem­po­rary mu­sic have been at­tract­ing a good deal of attention, but he also proved a mag­netic player in this more clas­sic work from 1945. One wants con­sid­er­able mel­low­ness from a cello, and this Ro­man pos­sessed; but his tone was also char­ac­ter­ized by the slight­est bit of grit at the pe­riph­ery, the tini­est mea­sure of husk­i­ness, which gave his play­ing an ex­pres­sive edge that sur­passed mere pret­ti­ness. His per­for­mance grew down­right grip­ping in the first-move­ment cadenza, where the emo­tive can­vas is en­larged still fur­ther through the ex­ten­sive use of har­mon­ics. Bar­ber’s con­certo reaches its height in the slow move­ment, where oboist Kevin Vigneau ad­mirably de­liv­ered an ob­bli­gato part so ex­ten­sive as to qual­ify him al­most as a co-soloist. O’Con­nor con­trolled the orches­tra care­fully through­out, never al­low­ing it to swamp the cel­list (which can hap­pen so eas­ily in per­for­mances of cello con­cer­tos) yet af­ford­ing it plenty of bite in the more threat­en­ing pas­sages of the fi­nale. The piece con­cludes sud­denly — Bar­ber had peren­nial trou­ble with end­ings — but not be­fore Ro­man im­pressed with more thrills in an­other cadenza.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.