Review: Tallahassee 101

The following was published in the Tallahassee Democrat, 2 May 2005. It is reprinted here by permission.

Two things were abundantly clear at the final concert of the 2004-2005 season of the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, which was also David Hoose's final appearance as the orchestra's music director.

The first of these was that one of the motivating factors in the music of the early 20th century was a desire among composers to free themselves of what they saw as the strictures of Germanic Romanticism and to establish musical identities for themselves and their countries.

The concert opened with a delightful performance of French composer Erik Satie's buoyantly absurdist ballet, Parade (1917). The score of Parade anticipates many of the innovations of the century, including minimalism, "moment form" (pieces made up of musical moments that could come in any order without changing the substance of the piece), the use of popular idioms in concert music and the use of extra-musical sound effects (a gun and a typewriter, among others).

Hoose and the orchestra reveled in the piece's eccentricities without resorting to exaggeration or slapstick.

Mark Rohr's program note quotes another Frenchman, Maurice Ravel: "The music of a concerto should, in my opinion, be lighthearted and brilliant, and not aim for profundity or dramatic effects." Ravel's Piano Concerto In G Major (1931) avoids Germanic "profundity" but does not avoid drama. Florida State University faculty member James Nalley joined the orchestra for a lively reading of the concerto. Hoose and the orchestra provided nimble and colorful accompaniment. Nalley's playing was stylish and clean, if a little heavy at times in the lyrical slow movement.

Continuing discussion in the concert-music world centers on ways to increase audiences, especially among younger people. Many people, and not just the young, find the atmosphere at concerts artificial and stuffy. The first movement of the Ravel concerto ends with a flourish that seems designed to elicit applause from the audience. The silence with which we now treat such moments seemed extremely artificial to this audience member.

Late in life, Claude Debussy followed his signature with the phrase "Musician of France." His Prelude a 'L'Apres-midi d'un Faune' ("Prelude to 'The Afternoon of a Faun'," 1894) went a long way toward establishing a French sound in concert music that echoes in today's music.

I've commented before that because of the presence of FSU faculty members in the principal chairs in the TSO, repertoire can be played here that generally can't be heard from the local orchestra in most cities the size of Tallahassee. Prelude, with its lush solos from several instruments, is one of those pieces. Eva Amsler gave a warm and expressive reading of the iconic opening flute solo, and clarinetist Frank Kowalsky, bassoonist Jeffrey Keesecker, oboist Eric Ohlsson, harpist Mary Brigid Roman, hornist David Cripps and concertmistress Karen Clarke acquitted themselves admirably in solos and exposed passages.

Italian composer Ottorino Respighi was very conscious of expressing his national identity in his music, especially in the Roman trilogy, of which Pini di Roma ("The Pines of Rome," 1924) is the most popular. Saturday evening's performance was bright and exciting.

Respighi's particular genius was in his orchestration, and the gripping finale of this work, "The Pines of the Appian Way," gets its power from the way the composer layers the motives so the volume grows through the addition of instruments. Hoose and the orchestra exhibited great control throughout, saving the biggest sound for the end. The large closing-night audience responded with a lengthy and boisterous ovation.

The other thing alluded to above is that Hoose leaves the TSO and its audience in very good shape for whoever takes up the baton after next season's year of audition concerts. And you can't ask much more of a music director's leave-taking than that.

No comments:

Post a Comment