Wigglesworth, New World offer compelling and atmospheric Ravel
The New World Symphony’s audience — formally dressed inside and wearing T-shirts and shorts outside for the Wallcast — enjoyed a first-class evening of music at the “Dance of Devotion” program Saturday night. Mark Wigglesworth displayed prodigious musicality as the English conductor led the orchestra through Michael Tippett’s demanding Ritual Dances, and Maurice Ravel’s epic ballet Daphnis et Chloë.
Tippett’s Dances, excerpted from his 1952 opera, A Midsummer Marriage, is essentially a concerto for orchestra. Although meant to accompany action on stage, Tippett pulls no punches for the musicians, and Ritual Dances works most effectively as a concert piece.
Cast as a prelude and four dances, each section has a pastoral character reflecting animals and a nature element. Tippett employs text painting to establish various moods, resulting in challenging passages for nearly every musician in the orchestra.
From the sparkling opening in flutes and harp, Wigglesworth displayed a powerful, expansive conducting style matched by a fine sense of pacing and dynamics that brought out the best in the musicians. Highlights included a marvelous horn solo during the first dance, a perfectly intoned melody for violas that defined the second dance, and a quartet of violins with piccolo and flute pitted against ominous low strings in the third dance.
Wigglesworth used all of his prodigious skills at tempo, balancing and dynamics to separate and define each of Tippett’s musical lines. Although only a half-hour long, the richness and complexity of the Ritual Dances made for a satisfying first half.
Ravel’s ballet Daphnis et Chloë from 1912 is equally challenging for the conductor and orchestra because of its languorous lines and transparent textures. Ravel creates a huge orchestral palette of auxiliary instruments including alto flute, contrabassoon, nine percussionists, and two harps.
Wigglesworth’s experience as both an orchestral and an opera conductor have refined a dramatic, musical sense of pacing that made for a captivating performance. In the pastoral Part I, with its constant swells and eddies, Wigglesworth coaxed great expressivity from the musicians, especially the spotlighted winds and strings. Concertmaster Ko Sugiyama turned in beautifully vulnerable solos for the lovers’ theme, and flutist Matthew Roitstein was outstanding throughout. Brilliant brass timbres led ferocious orchestral tuttis during the Danse grotesque de Dorcon.
Part II solidifies Ravel’s reputation as an orchestrator through numerous novel effects. Offstage brass, glissandi in the strings, a huge percussion battery, and a wind machine all contribute to the drama of the ballet. Wigglesworth’s huge crescendi, as in the pirate dance, and his lyrical touch in the Danse suppliante de Chloë made both sections enthralling. Especially noteworthy were the terrific clarinet solos by Jason Shafer and David Lemelin.
Part III also features winds and strings prominently, most notably a breathtakingly quiet alto flute solo and expressive melodies from violinist Sugiyama. Interestingly, the chorus was omitted, but the New World’s compelling performance left nothing wanting.
The program will be repeated 2 p.m. Sunday. nws.edu
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Sun Jan 29, 2012
at 1:04 pm