Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Delaware Symphony: Never Better

Delaware Symphony Orchestra, with guest conductor Eckart Preu. Osvaldo Golijov: Last Round; Jennifer Higdon: Soprano Sax Concerto; Robert Schumann: Symphony No. 4 in D minor op. 120. How can I describe this concert? Technically? Historically? Not tonight. This will be a review that gets to the heart of the music. To be fair, it should be known that for 10 years I was the piccolo player I the DSO. I played for a conductor that was hostile to me and at the end of my tenure I left because no matter what, one can't fight the podium. I played in the orchestra at that time with blinders on my ears: to survive one could not take in all the pitch chaos. I learned how to listen. I learned how to play defensively. I became jaded. And then tonight I heard real music. I heard an orchestra so intent on making every moment count it brought tears to my eyes, this jaded musician. To begin with: the pre concert talk. Mr. Preu had notes! He was prepared! The talk had a beginning, a middle, and an end. And it allowed me to hear the Schumann with new ears, and prepared me for the Higdon and Golijov so I could listen actively. The conversation between Higdon and Preu was full of mutual respect and admiration. One word about Jennifer Higdon. OK more than one. She is essential for this art form. Accessible as a person, humble, fun, and writing music totally germane to our time. Her Oboe/Soprano Sax concerto was captivating and a fascinating exercise in texture. She explored the tonal colors of the blend of soprano sax and all the strings, winds, and percussion. The DSO played it like chamber music. So energetic and driving. And yet, the slow movements allowed for the appreciation of tonal color amassed. I have had the great pleasure of performing many works of Piazzolla, the inspiration of Golijov. He knows his Piazzolla inside and out. The upper strings performed standing in a departure from tradition that worked very well. The work was very effective especially in tonal colors and vibrant rhythms. And then the Schumann. Preu was a magician. His conducting never superfluous, no gesture other than what the music indicated. At least from the audience's view. And I think for the musicians. They all were intense, on the edge of their seats, giving their all. And the effect was...I must admit. I had tears in my eyes. To hear this orchestra play so intensely and cohesively. I stood at the curtain call. I NEVER stand. So many outstanding moments flood to me now. My mind's ear won't let me sleep. But here is one thing to sum it all up. Transitions. I learned in my orchestral playing days that one way to know a conductor's skill was how the transitions from one section to the next were detailed. The not-great-conductors sort of wand their way through. Not Preu. Every transition was prepared and motivated. They were seamless, integrated. Jaded? Me? Yes. But not tonight. Do not miss this performance. There is nothing anywhere better than what I heard tonight.

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