New World members show depth and virtuosity in concerto program
The depth of talent in the New World Symphony routinely comes through in the rich tone, range of color and virtuoso execution with which the young musicians perform the orchestral repertoire.
But every year, a few members selected by means of a competition get the chance to perform as soloists in annual concerto concerts. At New World Center in Miami Beach Saturday evening, the latest group of winners showed that the orchestra’s standards remain as high as ever. Given this opportunity to take the spotlight, the musicians understandably chose flashy works that allowed them to show off their hard-won virtuosity.
The concert opened with a rarity, the Gran Duo Concertante for violin, bass and orchestra by Giovanni Bottesini, a 19th century composer and performer who has been called the Paganini of the bass. This was music in the old-fashioned virtuoso style, with barrel-organ melodies, moments of operatic drama and merciless technical demands on the performers. It also exploited the unusual combination of solo instruments to produce freakish effects such as a passage in which the bass played at the upper limits of its register to go higher than the violin.
Violinist Amos Fayette handled his part with poise, with vigorous and fearless bowing, accurate intonation when playing two simultaneous notes and a sweet tone in the work’s sentimental melodies. Bass Lee Philip conquered the extremely difficult part devised by Bottesini to push the bass to the edge of its capability. The young bassist’s playing was accurate in melodies and runs that went so high up that he was playing past the instrument’s fingerboard, zipping through rapid accompaniments to Fayette’s melodies and nailing at high speed the flute-like harmonic effects.
Ann Fink gave an evocative performance of Wieniawski’s Violin Concerto No. 2, fully entering into the work’s atmosphere of Romantic high drama. And she did it on a pretty fancy instrument, a Guarneri del Gesu violin that had belonged to the late American virtuoso Ruggiero Ricci.
From the elegantly phrased opening melody, she plunged into the work’s thicket of technical demands, successfully negotiating the high-speed runs, notes played two or three at a time and rapid passages in octaves. She brought great warmth to the long, aching melody of the second movement, bringing it to a stirring climax. And after a fiery performance of the brief cadenza leading into the final movement, she gave a crisp, accurate account of its endless streams of fast notes.
Weber’s Andante and Hungarian Rondo for bassoon and orchestra received a graceful and energetic performance by bassoonist Tom Fleming. His tone was luxuriant, making the most of the instrument’s unique resonance and color, with phrasing and volume that was even through its range. In many passages, the bassoon plays an accompaniment to the melody in the orchestra, and Fleming brought this off with great style and accuracy.
The Sibelius Violin Concerto is one of the most difficult works in the repertoire, and it demands much more from the performer than simply the ability to negotiate a technical obstacle course. Fortunately violinist Clara Lee had both the musical and digital skills to produce a compelling, forceful performance. She also had the opportunity to perform on a top-flight instrument, a 1734 Stradivarius called the Willemotte, named for a former owner.
From the crystal purity of her tone in the opening melody, she conjured up the work’s icy Nordic world. Her bowing was extremely clean, as she thundered up the instrument’s lowest string and delivered arpeggios that resonated through the hall. The final movement was a taut, energetic performance with flawless execution of fearfully difficult effects such as artificial harmonics and rapid cascades of tenths.
The orchestra, conducted by Tito Muñoz, gave a robust performance and provided sensitive support to the soloists.
The New World Symphony typically gives two separate programs of concerto performances, but this season is presenting only one. New World spokesman Craig Hall said this was an unusual circumstance involving the timing of the competition and the mix of works proposed by the performers. Hall said that future seasons will see a return to two concerto programs.
The program will be repeated 2 p.m. Sunday at New World Center in Miami Beach. nws.edu, 800-597-3331
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Sun Apr 7, 2013
at 11:55 am