New World members take the spotlight in concerto program

By David Fleshler

Jarrett McCourt performed Arild Plau's Tuba Concerto Saturday night at New World Center.

Jarrett McCourt performed Arild Plau’s Tuba Concerto Saturday night at New World Center.

Every year members of the New World Symphony compete for the honor of performing a solo work with the orchestra.

This year’s Concerto Showcase, performed Saturday night at New World Center in Miami Beach, featured works drawn largely from the realm of the bass clef: Two works for cello and one for tuba (as a well as a work for violin). Conducted by Alasdair Neale, the concert again showed the impressive level of talent in this orchestra of recent conservatory graduates.

The program opened with soloist Jarrett McCourt in the Concerto for Tuba and String Orchestra by Arild Plau, a Norwegian composer who died in 2005.

For those who think of the tuba as solely an inhabitant of the depths of the orchestra– providing thumping tones to undergird the rest of the brass–the performance might have come as a surprise. Much of the melody went to the tuba, requiring the instrument to ascend to the upper limits of its range, where in McCourt’s hands, it sounded like a particularly dark-hued and lustrous French horn.

He drew warm, full-bodied tones from his instrument, with seamless phrasing, in this accessible, melodious work, which uses a fairly conservative harmonic vocabulary. He played with agility in stormy rapid passages and brought a keen sense of drama to the crescendo leading to the end of the first movement.

The composer’s decision to pair the tuba with an orchestra consisting only of strings was a shrewd one, allowing the solo brass instrument to stand out. In the second movement, the tuba effectively played ornamental lines over a melody in the violins. And as the melancholy melody came his way, McCourt played with a warm, romantic tone. The last movement featured a cadenza, in which McCourt gave a nimble account of the fast-moving notes.

Thomas Carpenter

Thomas Carpenter

The cellist Thomas Carpenter took the stage for a performance of Ernest Bloch’s Schelomo, “Hebraic Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra.” In this work, the cello is the personification of King Solomon. Although this is not a long piece, Carpenter gave it an epic quality, his playing ranging from heroic and assertive to inward-looking and meditative.

He easily handled the work’s technical challenges, his intonation almost flawless as he played runs and ascended to the instrument’s upper range. He played the thunderous opening in a free-flowing emotional style, but with a sense of momentum that made for an attention-grabbing start. Carpenter has a big, rich tone that suited this work, but he varied his tone throughout, narrowing it to needle-like intensity in the work’s moments of high drama. The orchestra, which provided firm support throughout under Neale’s direction, was particularly effective in stormy, brass-topped passages.

Hilary Glen

Hilary Glen

After intermission, Hilary Glen gave a light, graceful performance of Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 2. Although she had some intonation problems, particularly high on the fingerboard, she otherwise appeared to easily handle the work’s difficulties. The running passages in which her bow bounced across the strings, the fast passages of two simultaneous notes, the octaves and arpeggios–all were dispatched with style and a touch of wit.

Ju Hyung Shin

Ju Hyung Shin

The most impressive playing came at the end of the concert, with Ju Hyung Shin’s sizzling, atmospheric performance of the Sibelius Violin Concerto. He handled the work’s formidable technical challenges with cool authority – the runs of the first movement, holding a trill over a simultaneous melody, the last movement’s staccato runs in thirds and artificial harmonics.

But unlike many young violinists who can scale the concerto’s difficulties, he also captured the work’s unique mood. The glassy opening, for example, where he played with an arctic remoteness, and the first-movement’s runs in broken octaves, performed in a manner that allowed them to fade into the mist.

The New World Symphony will repeat the program 2 p.m. Sunday at New World Center in Miami Beach and 2 p.m. Monday at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach., 305-673-3331;, 800-572-8471.

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Sun Feb 19, 2017
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