Boulder Phil ends remarkable season with a remarkable concert

CU faculty Charles Wetherbee and Nicolò Spera featured in world premiere

By Peter Alexander

butterman.andorch

Michael Butterman and the Boulder Philharmonic

Last night the Boulder Philharmonic and conductor Michael Butterman ended a remarkable season with a remarkable concert, one of the most interesting they have done.

The mostly-Italian program included one of the most brilliant orchestral showpieces of all time, a world premiere, and several pieces that are rarely played. If you love making new discoveries, as I do,  this was a fun program.

First the world premiere—and the one non-Italian piece on the program: Invisible Cities, Double Concerto for violin, guitar strings and percussion by Stephen Goss. The composer is Welsh, although the concerto is based on the fascinating novel of the same title by the 20th-century Italian writer Italo Calvino. Soloists were Charles Wetherbee, violin and Nicolò Spera, guitar.

The novel imagines a series of conversations between Marco Polo and the Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan. In an intricate design, the novel has Polo describe 55 cities to the Emperor, all of which turn out to be facets of Venice, his home. Dispersed among the cities are a series of conversations, in which Polo and Kublai Khan are gradually able to communicate more clearly across their linguistic and cultural barriers.

SteveGoss_10

Stephen Goss

In a similarly intricate design, the concerto alternates between orchestrally accompanied movements representing cities and duos without orchestra representing the conversations. Particularly ingenious are the duos, which represent musically the growing accord between Polo and the Emperor through music of growing lyrical beauty.

The musical design is clever but not cryptic, and it is executed without ever seeming forced. The piece as a whole is accessible, expressively convincing and well constructed. This is a work of significance that should be taken up by other guitar-violin duos.

Wetherbee.1

Charles Wetherbee

The style is largely based in conventional gestures of contemporary orchestral music. If not original, the musical elements are used to good effect, as listeners can recognize and enter the expressive realm of each movement. Where the music is more imaginative, as in the interaction between the soloists, the creativity is never originality for originality’s sake; it always serves the expressive goals.

nicolo.spera

Niccolò Spera

The soloists played with sweet expression together, and with greater intensity when required. Their sounds were well balanced, reflecting prior work together as a duo. At their best they rose to all the demands of Goss’s pleasing new work.

The two works preceding the concerto were undoubtedly new discoveries for most in the audience, and both were 20th-century pieces based on older music. The first was Stravinsky’s Monumentum pro Gesualdo, orchestral arrangements of uniquely strange and adventurous Renaissance madrigals by Carlo Gesualdo.

Stravinsky’s setting is strange in its own way, with discontinuous bits of harmonic and instrumental color shifting about the orchestra and managing to sound like both Gesualdo and Stravinsky. This score, nicely played last night, fits the Boulder Philharmonic and its outstanding individual players well.

That was followed by Luciano Berio’s Four Original Versions of Boccherini’s Return of the Nightwatch from Madrid. Sometimes an enfant terrible of modern music, Berio also wrote highly approachable scores built from older music, of which this is one.

Four different versions of a movement by the 18th-century Italian composer Boccherini are arranged for modern orchestra and layered on top of one another. At times they match perfectly, but at other times they do not, creating delicious and unexpected dissonances that pass quickly.

Depicting the approach and departure of the Nightwatch, the score culminates in a rousing setting of the tune, and then dissipates into silence. It was played with verve, as once again the individual contributions of the players fit well into the orchestral mosaic.

After intermission, Butterman and the orchestra gave an invigorating reading of Verdi’s Overture to Nabucco, with all the turns of mood well traversed and quite a bit of excitement for the explosive ending. Puccini’s Chrysanthemums, an ingratiating minor work, was played with expression, if not the plush, ermine-fringed sound one would like to hear.

Respighi

Ottorino Respighi

The concert ended with a sure bet, Respighi’s Pines of Rome, a piece guaranteed to rouse the audience from their seats. In the hands of the Boulder Phil, Respighi’s orchestra worked its magic: it shone when it should shine and sparkled when it should sparkle, the sudden contrasts were contrasting and the abrupt changes of scene were well delineated.

The winds deserve special recognition, from the brass flourishes in “The Pines of the Villa Borghese,” to the delicate woodwind solos of “The Pines of the Janiculum,” to the massive fanfares of “The Pines of the Appian Way.” Once again the Roman Legions advanced, a brass choir sounded from the balcony—although how effectively depended on where you were sitting—and Respighi brought the crowd to its feet.

You could not have a more rousing ending for a season.

Boulder Phil in D.C., episode II

“A great sense of pride in representing our hometown”—Michael Butterman

By Peter Alexander

B.Phil.DC.jpg

Boulder Philharmonic warming up on the Kennedy Center stage (March 28)

Michael Butterman, music director of the Boulder Philharmonic, reported his thoughts late last night (March 28), after the orchestra’s concert in the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C, where they were playing as part of the inaugural Shift Festival of American Orchestras.

“It was a peak experience for me, and, I think, for all of us at the Phil,” he wrote. “I have conducted quite a number of concerts on that stage, but to be there with our orchestra, with that crowd and with that repertoire—it was something I shall never forget.

“More than anything, we had a great sense of pride in representing our hometown.  The audience seemed to absolutely love every piece, and got a real taste of how deeply we value the natural world.”

Buttermans.jpg

Michael Butterman (r) performs in front of the Jefferson Memorial with violinist Jennifer Carsillo (l) (March 29)

Butterman and others who attended the concert have reported that the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, with a capacity of 2,155, was full last night, and that the audience response was more than enthusiastic. “There was incredible energy from the crowd,” Butterman wrote.

“It felt like a pep rally. The orchestra sounded like a million bucks—they were in top form and clearly gave it their all in terms of concentration and focus.”

In a Facebook posting, Boulder Phil executive director Kevin Shuck wrote, “No words. Boulder Phil and [Boulder’s] Frequent Flyers bring down the (PACKED) house at the Kennedy Center!”

Today (March 29), small ensembles from the Boulder Phil performed “pop-up concerts” at various locations around Washington’s Tidal Basin.

On Monday (March 27), Boulder Open Spaces and Mountain Parks naturalist Dave Sutherland led guided musical hikes in Rock Creek Park, similar to the musical hikes he has presented in connection with Boulder Phil concerts in recent seasons.

 

Boulder Phil at the Kennedy Center

“An amazing evening”—Holly Hickman

By Peter Alexander

The Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra played tonight (March 28) in the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C, as part of the very first Shift Festival of American Orchestras.

The program was the same one they played in Boulder March 25.

Shift Banner

Shift Festival banner in Washington, D.C.

“It was really an amazing evening,” reports Holly Hickman, a longtime arts supporter in Boulder who accompanied the orchestra on their trip to D.C. Hickman is the founder of Up Tempo Marketing, specializing in “spirited marketing for music organizations,” and serves as marketing consultant to the Boulder Phil.

She sent several pictures of the evening.

“The audience loved the concert,” she wrote after the performance. “The orchestra sounded great. We came across as a high-energy, non-stuffy orchestra.”

Further reports from composer Stephen Lias and others with the Boulder Philharmonic will appear here as soon as I hear from them.

“Nature and Music”: one of Boulder Phil’s best performances

Green bandanas waving, the orchestra departs for Washington, D.C.

By Peter Alexander

The concert opened with the swirling, magical sounds of a new score from Stephen Lias, and ended with the players waving green bandanas in the air.

Last night (March 25), the Boulder Philharmonic and conductor Michael Butterman presented “Nature and Music,” the same program they will perform Tuesday, March 28, in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall in the nation’s capital as part of the first Shift Festival for American Orchestras.

BPO.Macky.3

Michael Butterman and the Boulder Philharmonic

The Boulder Phil is one of only four orchestras invited to the festival, and the only regional orchestra. As reported earlier in Boulder Weekly, their application to the festival, based on the orchestra’s programming, community outreach, and collaborative performances, was considered by the festival panel to be the “gold standard” of what they were looking for.

To represent the Boulder Phil’s recent emphasis on music written to celebrate nature, their program for the festival featured a new orchestral score commissioned from Lias as part of the National Endowment of the Arts’ “Imagine Your Parks” initiative, celebrating the 2016 centennial of the National Parks Service. Titled All the Songs that Nature Sings, it was inspired by Rocky Mountain National Park.

Other works on the program were drawn from previous concert programs: Jeff Midkiff’s Mandolin Concerto, with Midkiff as soloist; Ghosts of the Grassland by Steve Heitzig; and Copland’s Appalachian Spring, performed with choreography by Boulder’s Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance company.

IMG_0458

Stephen Lias in Rocky Mountain National Park

Lias took his title from the writings of Enos Mills, “The Father of Rocky Mountain National Park.” Accompanied by slides of the park selected by Lias, the music suggests a cinematic view of the park’s high country, starting with streams and lakes, culminating with rocky crags and ridges, and ending with mountain wildflowers.

Lias has written a thoroughly engaging piece. The almost impressionistic haze of sound of the opening measures pulls the listener into a world of nature at its most lovely and benign. As the music swells, lyrical melodies and powerful chordal passages are enlivened by rippling lines and repeated chords, forming a musical metaphor for scenes in nature that are always in motion: water rippling, leaves fluttering, light flickering.

The score reaches a rugged climax with stark brass chords, accompanied by views of the park’s most impressive peaks. It then ends gently, with a tender violin solo that was ably played by the Phil’s concertmaster, Charles Wetherbee.

Butterman and the Boulder Phil had the music well under control from the beginning to the end. As played last night, the cinematic sweep of the score created a clear outline. This is a thoroughly successful piece that should find appreciative audiences wherever it is performed.

Jeff Midkiff

Jeff Midkiff

Midkff’s Mandolin Concerto, subtitled From the Blue Ridge, is a mix of classical idioms with folk and bluegrass, all of it sounding comfortably American. The lightening lines of the first movement do not have much to suggest music from the Blue Ridge Mountains, other than the folksy sound of the mandolin. The second movement recalls Copland ‘s Americana, filled with a nostalgic sweetness. The finale settles into a jazzy bluegrass groove that fits the mandolin and its natural idioms perfectly.

From the rapid fire opening, to the plaintive slow movement, to the down-home finale, Midkiff was on top of every mood, and his final virtuoso flourish brought the audience to their feet. He rewarded the cheering crowd with his own arrangement of “Monroe’s Hornpipe” by the great bluegrass mandolinist/songwriter Bill Monroe.

It does no dishonor to Heitzig’s Ghosts of the Grassland to say that it has the emotional immediacy of a good film score. It is easy to imagine the dramatic gestures and mood changes representing—what exactly? The dramatic weather of the American prairie, or a primordial scene of bison and prairie grass (both represented in the percussion section)?

But everyone has their own imagination. Once again the Boulder Phil conveyed the musical drama well, and piping squeals notwithstanding, I believe that no prairie dogs were harmed in the performance.

Originally written as a ballet, Copland’s Appalachian Spring is obviously suited to various forms of interpretation, of which Frequent Flyer’s aerial dance represents one of the more original. As realized by Nancy Smith, the choreography has some magical moments that are almost ritualistic in effect, especially the beginning and the end.

AC-3-23-640x401

Frequent Flyers with the Boulder Philharmonic

In between, the dancers, for all their impressive strength and grace, did not always avoid an element of spectacle. What they do is so obviously difficult, so unimaginable to most in the audience, that it becomes hard to translate admiration for the athleticism of the performance into appreciation for its artistry. Nonetheless, their Appalachian Spring is a remarkable achievement.

As impressive as Frequent Flyers were, it would be a mistake to overlook the orchestra. Clearly primed for the festival, they presented just about the finest standard work I have heard them perform. You may hear more splashy performances, but Butterman’s restrained approach is more in keeping with Copland’s original conception, and it brings out all of the score’s considerable tenderness.

This is a very attractive program, and one that fits the orchestra’s strengths. Word is that the Boulder Phil is outselling the other orchestras in the festival, and they stand to make a very solid impression.

As for the green bandanas: The Shift Festival sent bandanas to every orchestra—”because we like bandanas,” Butterman said, sounding bemused. And so as the audience stood and cheered its well wishes to the orchestra for their trip to Washington, the players stood and waved their bandanas in response.

Maybe that’s what they were for: I could not imagine a more cheerful bon voyage than 80 green bandanas waving from the Macky stage. I join all of Boulder in wishing them a safe trip and a great reception at the Shift Festival.

# # # # #

Shift Festival of American Orchestras

Nature & Music
Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, Michael Butterman, music director

All the Songs that Nature Sings by Stephen Lias (world premiere)
Mandolin Concerto, From the Blue Ridge by Jeff Midkiff
Jeff Midkiff, mandolin
Ghosts of the Grassland by Steve Heitzig
Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland
With Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance
Nancy Smith, choreographer

Kennedy Ctr

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Art, Washington, D.C.

8 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington, D.C.
Tickets: 202-467-4600

 

The gold standard

Boulder Phil previews its Kennedy Center performance

By Peter Alexander

Creative programming, extensive community engagement and thoughtful collaborations have paid off for the Boulder Philharmonic.

AC-3-23-640x401

Boulder Phil with Frequent Flyers. Photo by Glenn Ross.

The big reward comes this week. Their next concert, Saturday, March 25, will be repeated Tuesday, March 28, at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., where they will be recognized as one of four orchestras, and the only regional orchestra, chosen for the inaugural Shift Festival of American Orchestras. 

The program for the two concerts reflects several of the Boulder Phil’s recent initiatives, particularly the theme of “Nature and Music” that has informed several recent seasons and the collaboration with other local arts organizations. The program opens with the premiere of a new work by Stephen Lias, All the Songs that Nature Sings, commissioned as part of the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) “Imagine Your Parks” initiative and specifically celebrating Rocky Mountain National Park.

Other works on the program represent what Butterman calls “greatest hits of the last five years.” Jeff Midkin’s Mandolin Concerto “From the Blue Ridge” and Steve Heitzig’s Ghosts of the Grasslands were both introduced to Boulder audiences in the spring of 2014 and were highly successful with audiences. And the final work on the concert will reprise one of the orchestra’s most creative collaborations: their 2013 partnering with Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance for Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring.

The combination of the Shift Festival and the “Imagine Your Parks” commission seemed tailor-made for the Boulder Phil. In fact, the Boulder Phil’s Executive Director Kevin Shuck says, “we had what in the words of the festival’s selection panel members was ‘the gold standard’ of what they were looking for.”

The festival will certainly put a national spotlight on the Boulder Phil, but the same activities that were the basis of the festival application have paid off locally as well. The programming of the past few years, community outreach, collaborations with Frequent Flyers and other arts groups, and educational programs have all helped build local audiences. Since 2009, overall ticket sales for the orchestra have risen 67 percent and subscription sales 44 percent. And Saturday’s concert is on track to be a sellout.

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

# # # # #

Nature & Music
Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, Michael Butterman, music director

All the Songs that Nature Sings by Stephen Lias (world premiere)
Mandolin Concert, From the Blue Ridge by Jeff Midkin
Jeff Midkin, mandolin
Ghosts of the Grassland by Steve Heitzig
Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland
With Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance

2 p.m. Saturday, March 25
Free concert for community organizations

7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 25, Macky Auditorium
Tickets: 303-449-1343

8 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington, D.C.
Tickets: 202-467-4600

Boulder Phil announces 60th anniversary season

Commissioned works, returning guests and works suggested by players are on the schedule

By Peter Alexander

The Boulder Philharmonic will present the Colorado premieres of two new works co-commissioned by the orchestra as part of its 2017–18 season.

bpo-macky-2

Boulder Philharmonic in Macky Auditorium

Other highlights of the coming season will be the return of popular attraction Cirque de la Symphonie for two performances of “Cirque Goes to the Movies” Feb. 3, 2018, and the orchestra’s second season-ending collaboration with Central City Opera, this time for a concert performance of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story April 28, 2018.

The season program, which was announced to patrons and the public yesterday afternoon (March 5), celebrates the orchestra’s 60th anniversary. The celebration includes the return of guest artists who have appeared with the orchestra before, including pianists Jon Nakamatsu for Schumann’s Piano Concerto Sept. 24; David Korevaar for Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, Oct. 14; and Simone Dinnerstein for concertos by J.S. Bach and Philip Glass Jan. 13, 2018.

Other collaborations will be with violinist and Boulder Phil concertmaster Charles Wetherbee for The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams, violinist Stefan Jackiw for Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2, and choirs from CU Boulder, Western Illinois University, and Metropolitan State University in Denver.

music-director-michael-butterman_2_credit-rene-palmer

Michael Butterman. Photo by Rene Palmer

“What you see [in the 2017–18 season] is a continuation of some of the characteristics of our programing that have worked well for us,” Boulder Philharmonic Music Director Michael Butterman says. “It’s not so much looking back at 60 years as it is looking back at the last eight or nine. There’s the idea of collaborations and of championing successful new music.”

Missing is any season-long programming theme, such as this year’s duo soloists, or recent seasons built around music and nature—although nature is not completely absent next year.

“The music and nature connection is there, in one concert in early April,” Butterman says. The April 8, 2018, concert, titled “A Song for Swans,” includes Sibelius’s Symphony No 5, whose last movement was inspired when the composer saw a flight of 16 swans pass overhead. “One of the great experiences of my life,” Sibelius wrote in his diary. “God, how beautiful!”

Sibelius was one of several composers that members of the orchestra suggested for the season. “We worked with the players early on to get their input, asking what are some pieces that you would like to play,” Butterman says. Among the composers they suggested were Sibelius, who appears on the April 7 concert; Dvořák, whose Seventh Symphony will be performed on the season opener Sept. 24; and Shostakovich, whose Symphony No. 5 will be performed Oct. 14.

theofinadis

Christopher Theofanidis

The season’s first Colorado premiere will be Dreamtime Ancestors by Christopher Theofanidis, which will open the very first concert. The score was commissioned by a consortium of 50 orchestras, one in each state, that was put together by New Music for America. The world premiere was given by the Plymouth, Mass., Philharmonic Orchestra in October 2015, with other performances around the country following within a roughly two-year period.

“Theofanidis is certainly one of the leading living composers,” Butterman says. “We had  a relationship with him, when we performed his Rainbow Body a few years ago, and trusted the kind of product he was going to provide. So we agreed to take part in that project.”

rv-dinnerstein-0717rv1

Simone Dinnerstein

In a concert titled “Bach Transfigured,” scheduled for Jan. 13, 2018, the orchestra will present the Colorado premiere of Philip Glass’s Piano Concerto No. 3, performed by Dinnerstein. Glass admires her playing, and approached her to say he would like to write a concerto for her.

“She approached some orchestras that she had a relationship with, and conductors, and most of us bought into it,” Butterman says. The Boulder Phil raised their share of the commission from local donors and joined a smaller consortium of orchestras, including A Far Cry, a self-conducted orchestra in Boston, who will give the world premiere of the concerto.

Because Dinnerstein is widely known and admired for her performances of Bach, Glass has asked that the concerto be paired in concert with Bach’s Keyboard Concerto in G minor, as it will be in Boulder.

The season will close out with the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth. In collaboration with Central City Opera (CCO) and choirs from Metropolitan State University in Denver, the orchestra will present Bernstein’s 1957 Broadway hit West Side Story. Butterman and the Phil worked with CCO at the end of the 2015–16 season to present a semi-staged performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and they were eager to repeat the collaboration.

“We had such a positive experience doing that,” Butterman said. “Hopefully it’s something we can do in other years.” For West Side Story, he said that Central City will provide the cast and some kind of direction, so that it will be “essentially in concert, but with a certain amount of theatrical elements.”

With the announcement of the anniversary season, the Boulder Philharmonic becomes the second local orchestra to build a season around an anniversary. Earlier this year the Colorado Music Festival announced its 2017 40th-anniversary season, also featuring the return of popular soloists.

The full Boulder Philharmonic program for the 2017–18 season is listed below.

# # # # #

logo2

Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra
2017-2018 Season
All concerts in Macky Auditorium
(Additional outreach events and repeat performances of selected programs
in metro Denver locations will be announced.)

7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017—Opening Night: Boulder Phil at 60
Christopher Theofanidis: Dreamtime Ancestors
(Colorado premiere and Boulder Phil co-commission)
Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor, Jon Nakamatsu, piano
Dvořák: Symphony No. 7

korevaar

David Korevaar

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017—Music of Resistance
Beethoven: Choral Fantasy, David Korevaar, piano
CU Boulder and Western Illinois University Choirs
Britten: Ballad of Heroes
CU Boulder and Western Illinois University Choirs
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5

November 24 through November 26, 2017
The Nutcracker with Boulder Ballet

 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018—Bach Transfigured
C.P.E. Bach: Symphony in C Major, Wq 182
J.S. Bach: Keyboard Concerto in G minor, BWV 1068, Simone Dinnerstein, piano
Phillip Glass: Piano Concerto No. 3, Simone Dinnerstein, piano
(Colorado premiere and Boulder Phil co-commission)
Arnold Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night)

janicemartin3-small

Janice Martin

2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018—Cirque Goes to the Movies
Cirque de la Symphonie, with Janice Martin, aerial violinist
Featuring film scores including Harry Potter, Mission Impossible, Pirates of the Caribbean and On the Town.

7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 7, 2018—A Song for Swans
Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending with dancers and Charles Wetherbee, violin
Sibelius: Symphony No. 5
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2, Stefan Jackiw, violin

7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 28, 2018—West Side Story: Bernstein at 100
Bernstein: West Side Story in Concert with Central City Opera and Metropolitan State University of Denver Choirs

Tickets: Subscription packages are now available.
Single tickets go on sale June 1, 2017.

————

CORRECTION 3.6.17: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that the world premiere of Philip Glass’s Piano Concerto No. 3 would be given the Mitteldeutsche Radiofunk Orchester of Leipzig. The world premiere will be given by A Far Cry in Boston.

Butterman and Boulder Phil shine in Romantic program

Brahms, Schumann and Dame Ethel Smyth were on the bill

By Peter Alexander

bpo-macky-3

Michael Butterman and the Boulder Philharmonic

In a program of Romantic and very late Romantic music, the Boulder Philharmonic sounded as good last night (Jan. 14) as I have ever heard them.

Most satisfying were two works from the heart of the Romantic era, Brahms’s darkly brooding Tragic Overture of 1880, and Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 in D minor from 1851. These are pieces that suit the orchestra and its conductor, Michael Butterman, particularly well, and they both received warm, suitably emotive interpretations. The third work on the program, Ethel Smyth’s stylistically Romantic Concerto for Violin and Horn, composed in the 1920s, was a more complicated case.

The concert began with the Tragic Overture. A work that reflects the composer’s famously dour persona, it was nonetheless an effective opener. The sound was warm and plush from the very first note. The texture was clean and well balanced—a testament to the quality of players and Butterman’s preparation—even in the contrapuntal passages. Butterman controlled the momentum carefully, doing with interpretation what larger orchestras would do with weight of sound.

ethel-portrait-crop

Dame Ethel Smyth

Smyth’s Concerto is an interesting hybrid, a concerto for two instruments that seem not well matched in sound and character. It veers nervously from one musical idea to another, and from concerto to chamber music textures and back. At times one or the other soloist seems relegated to a secondary role, or even blends into the orchestra, while the other takes the spotlight.

Smyth seems to gradually get a handle on the combination. By the final movement they are sharing themes, playing together, and trading motives much more fluidly. Except for an overlong exit from their written-out cadenza, this is the most successful movement.

Frautschi-1-high-res.jpg

Violinist Jennifer Frautschi

Soloists Jennifer Frautschi on violin and Eric Ruske on horn are outstanding players who had their parts well under control. Still, this may be a piece better heard in recordings, where the soloists can be electronically balanced. Certainly that was my experience; I was sitting on the left front of the house, looking straight into the bell of Ruske’s horn. There were times that was all I could hear, and Frautschi’s violin playing was muffled in comparison. I imagine that the balance was better farther back, or in the center of the hall.

Ruske-MattDine2_zps06350226.jpg

Horn player Eric Ruske

Considering that handicap, I hesitate to say more about the performance, except to note that Frautschi, Ruske and orchestra filled Macky with lovely sounds. The end of the slow movement and the shared material in the finale struck me as particularly enjoyable. The audience responded warmly.

The orchestra was again well balanced in the Schumann symphony. Some over-enthusiastic tympani playing in the first movement added punch to climactic moments, but at the cost of hearing full chords. The surging lines in the lower strings, a critical element of the score, were played with great momentum and richness of sound. The beautiful duo between cello and oboe in the slow movement was particularly effective.

Butterman responded well to Schumann’s sometimes mercurial moods, and controlled the musical flow to bring the symphony to a rousing conclusion. The enthusiasm of the audience was well earned.

The symphony was the first Schumann Butterman has programmed with the Phil. On the evidence of last night’s performance, he should do more; perhaps an orchestra that relishes portraying nature through sound will bring us the “Spring” Symphony in a future season.