Fireworks in Marin with Copland, Tchaikovsky

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

The Marin Symphony nailed a concert of classics on Feb. 28, under the sensitive and inspired baton on Music Director Alasdair Neale. Both orchestra and conductor engaged much more closely with the music than at their October concert.

The orchestra opened with a compelling rendition of Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun." A strong flute opening led into a series of striking dynamic contrasts, giving the piece life and excitement. Neale shaped the prominent harp line clearly and melodically, painting Debussy's picture with care and emotion. Perhaps Neale feels more comfortable injecting emotion into well-known pieces - his performance this evening was far more interpretive than in October, and it lent a comfortable air to the pieces.

Next was Copland's "Lincoln Portrait." Neale began with a weak opening passage, lacking volume or conviction. As the piece progressed, however, the brass and percussion sections provided a full sound, with good balance across the orchestra. Celebrity narrator Hoyt Smith (of KDFC) spoke clearly and strongly, shaping his phrases as if playing an instrument. The skilled interplay between narrator and orchestra highlighted the piece's dramatic shape, and Neale evoked a loud and lively performance.

The highlight of the concert came after intermission. Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony is often-performed and often-recorded, but the Marin Symphony played it with extra magic that night, if not in the first movement. The opening was far too segmented, featuring a hollow clarinet solo that rushed against Neale. Later, the rhythmic passages were completely out of sync. The violin section was weak throughout, out of balance with the strong brass, and the recap was slow and timid. Still, Neale was free and expressive with the tempo, setting the stage for a delectable second movement.

With his hands in the air like the Sorcerer's Apprentice, Neale drew a clear and expressive horn solo to open the second movement, with incredible dynamic expression. The entire movement was rich, if not shapely, and tremendously emotional. Throughout, Neale's grand and decisive gestures evoked hugeness from the group. I'd never seen him so active on the podium, and his movement evoked a strong brass sound, and fullness from the entire group. The opening theme returned suddenly and stunningly, with both stylistic and dynamic contrast, and the third movement continued with a similar energy. The clarinet solos here were warmer, and Neale shaped the orchestra into a variety of colors.

The fourth movement opened with grand, animated gestures, and the energy continued to build. The main theme returned in a staccato, punctuated statement, with outstanding dynamic contrast. Finally Neale, arms straight up in the air, brought in the huge ending, bursting with finality. But it was Neale's gleeful reaction to the applause that gave away his true emotional attachment to the piece. The clear joy on Neale's face, as he acknowledged the audience's cheers, was the perfect end to an energetic and emotionally-deep concert.

EBAC thanks the Marin Symphony for access to this concert.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL:

Leave a comment

Older reviews