Pianist Weiss, Cleveland Orchestra members in the spotlight at NWS chamber concert

By Lawrence Budmen

Pianist Orion Weiss performed at the New World Symphony chamber program Sunday in Miami Beach.

A lively romp through a Mozart masterpiece and two fine French rarities proved the high points of the New World Symphony’s chamber music program on Sunday afternoon. Six members of the Cleveland Orchestra—two of those New World alums—were onstage at the New World Center to add an extra dose of excitement to the performances.

The music of Albert Roussel (1869-1937) has fallen out of favor, rarely appearing in concert programming. Roussel fell between impressionism and neo-classicism, never firmly embracing either stylistic path. He wrote many fine works in a distinctively original voice. (New World artistic director-designate Stephane Denève has recorded several of Roussel’s orchestral scores. Hopefully he will be including some of those in his future concerts.)

Roussel’s Divertimento for piano and winds is a blithe and busy, seven-minute entertainment piece that enchants via sheer ingenuity and instrumental color. Guest pianist Orion Weiss struck the proper note of insouciance and Cleveland assistant principal flute Jessica Sindell’s sleek, polished articulation beguiled the ear.  In a lyrical interlude, Thomas Friedel’s oboe stood out among a fine ensemble.

Untitled I is a 2019 work for flute/ bass flute, violin, percussion and piano by University of Miami Frost School of Music professor Dorothy Hindman. According to the composer, it is a deconstruction of an earlier score.  Hindman’s eerie, spooky twelve-minute soundscape is intriguing and seemed perfect for Halloween, albeit a week late. Sporadic melodic fragments are heard in the violin and flute parts and the pianist repeatedly strikes the strings of his keyboard. Cleveland’s assistant concertmaster Jessica Lee played with shining tone, even in the highest register. Pianist Wesley Ducote met all of the formidable challenges Hindman conceived for his instrument. Allison DeFrancesco was a tower of strength on flute and Cleveland percussionist Marc Damoulakis conjured some scary sound effects. Hindman was warmly applauded when she joined the players on stage.

Lili Boulanger (1893-1918) was a greatly gifted composer whose life was tragically cut short. D’un soir triste (Of a sad evening) is striking for its portrait of darkness and desolation. An elongated cello solo sets the elegiac mood over piano chords. Violin lines turn more emotive and vast climaxes at extremes of volume precede a somber coda. This powerful vignette, Boulanger’s last completed composition, seems half as long as its ten-minute span. Justin Park’s lean cello sonority, Beatrice Hsieh’s rich violin tone and Weiss’ seasoned collaborative skills contributed to an intense reading of a significant work.

Witold Lutoslawski’s Dance Preludes marks the end of the Polish modernist’s folk music-inspired period. An old-fashioned, toe-tapping populist confection is leavened by a moody Andantino that suggests darker undercurrents in the manner of Shostakovich. Playing a version the composer created for the Czech Nonet, clarinetist Robert Woolfrey glided through acrobatics in top range and numerous changes of meter vivaciously. The solidity and evenly produced playing of Nathaniel Silberschlag’s horn and Maggie O’Leary’s burnished bassoon took top honors in a crisp and unified nine player-group  that included Cleveland’s principal cellist Mark Kosower.

Mozart’s Quartet in G minor for piano and strings, K. 678 is one of the genius from Salzburg’s most memorable chamber works. Weiss offered a light, sparkling rendition of the keyboard line that glossed over deeper emotional currents beneath the music’s gleaming surface. A nimble traversal of the Andante, taken at leisurely pace, worked best. 

Brisk lightness pervaded the Rondo finale. Violinist Ka-Yeon Lee, violist Bradley Parrimore and cellist Park formed a well balanced and blended string component. While the players radiated a plethora of charm, their rather superficial approach shortchanged the score’s depth.

Jeannette Sorrell conducts the New World Symphony in excerpts from Handel’s Water Music, Vivaldi’s Concerto in B minor for four violins, Mozart’s Ballet Music from Idomeneo and Exultate Jubilate and an aria from Joseph Bologne’s L’Amant anonyme with soprano Sonya Headlam  7:30 p.m. November 19 and 2 p.m. November 20 at the New World Center in Miami Beach. nws.edu                          

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Mon Nov 7, 2022
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