New World members soar like world-class soloists in concerto program

By David Fleshler

James Ferree

The New World Symphony’s musicians had the chance to show off Saturday in a concert of concertos that provided a stunning display of the orchestra’s depth of talent.

The musicians, who come to the orchestra as a sort of finishing school before going on to professional careers, spend an enormous among of time in conservatories learning the great works of the solo repertoire but then rarely get a chance to perform them in public. On Saturday at the orchestra’s hall in Miami Beach, four of its musicians stood before their colleagues and displayed abilities that would have made them worthy soloists in its regular concert season.

The horn has long had a reputation as the most treacherous instrument in the orchestra, with even distinguished performers suffering embarrassing lapses on occasion. The accuracy of James Ferree’s playing stood out as he performed the Soviet composer Reinhold Gliere’s Horn Concerto. But accuracy alone does not make a distinguished performance, and Ferree’s playing of this three-movement work displayed a mastery of the instrument that allowed him to paint all the moods of this work’s late-Romantic landscape (Although composed in 1950, it sounds like it was written in 1880.).

He brought an assertive, steel-edged tone to the first movement’s passages, was brilliant and biting in fast sections, drew throaty, golden sounds from the instrument in the melodies of the second movement.

Elizabeth Breslin

The Bartok Viola Concerto, an elegiac work left unfinished at the composer’s death, received an intelligent, searching performance from Elizabeth Breslin. She played without the astringency that many performers bring to Bartok, bringing to the work a warm, dark tone that is the special property of the viola. Her virtuosity was apparent in the double- and triple stops, where the violist plays two or three tones at once, and in his confident flights up the A string, where she made the instrument sound like a violin. The second movement was a yearning, atmospheric interlude. In the finale, she played the bumptious chords and fast passages like a gypsy violist.

Will Haapaniemi

The violinist Will Haapaniemi displayed unusual aplomb when crisis struck toward the end of the last movement of Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2. As he played one fast-moving passage, weird sounds started coming from his instrument, his previously fine intonation having seemingly departed. A string had apparently loosened—an occasional mishap on the instrument—and he quickly thrust his violin at the concertmaster, took hers, placed it under his chin and carried on with Prokofiev’s coda.

Even without his swift response to an emergency, this was a distinguished performance. He surmounted the concerto’s technical difficulties without any apparent problems, displaying a musical intelligence that brought out the work’s eerie, mysterious qualities, playfulness and occasional brutality. He brought a radiant tone to the second movement but with a cool restraint that seemed right for the anti-romantic composer’s music and his¬†hard-driving vitality¬†in the last movement built up ever-increasing force to the end.

Ko Sugiyama

Franz Waxman’s Carmen Fantasy is difficult almost to the point of parody, requiring the violinist to use staccato bowing, play two or three notes simultaneously in rapid succession, engage in high-speed runs up and down the fingerboard and use all the other tricks in the post-Paganini violinist’s bag.

Ko Sugiyama played like an old-fashioned virtuoso in the best sense, a style entirely appropriate to this work. He milked melodies high on the instrument’s lowest string for all they were worth, sliding from note to note like a Vaseline-haired violinist from the 1930s. His playing of the difficult passages, particularly the frenzied section that led to the work’s abrupt conclusion, had the sort of sizzling intensity that only virtuosity of a high caliber can impart to music.

The members of the orchestra, led by Alasdair Neale, gave their colleagues firm support throughout.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “New World members soar like world-class soloists in concerto program”

  1. Posted Mar 07, 2011 at 5:10 pm by nancy naroff

    Very sorry we missed it. Wonderful commentary.

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Mon Mar 7, 2011
at 7:41 am
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