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Michael Tilson and his NWS. Sunday 10/16/11

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Last Sunday I made it to the season opening concert of the New World Symphony, under MTT. The program started in a high note, when the strings made their way through the intricate, lightning-fast passages of the Overture to Smetana's opera The Bartered Bride, with an energetic, razor-sharp performance that led Tilson Thomas to have the string section rise for a bow of its own at the end. Then the young Spanish pianist Javier Perianes joined the orchestra for Schumann's Piano Concerto-(what a beauty, my God!). Perianes plays in a very interesting manner, his hands close to the keyboard, the total opposite of the theatrical, keyboard-pounding virtuoso. The Schumann concerto, of course, doesn't call for much keyboard pounding, and Perianes' touch was so articulate that the complex cascade of notes in the first and last movements came thru clearly over the orchestra, despite the pianist's quiet style. But there were times when more robust playing seemed called for, as in the third movement's triumphant coda, with the piano and orchestra engaging in a beautiful, joyous dialogue . Here Perianes’ playing contrasted sharply with that of the orchestra, which gave muscular accounts of the orchestral passages.

Then came the world premiere of James Lee III's "Sukkot Through Orion's Nebula", a work intended to evoke the spirit of the Jewish harvest festival and the arrival of the Messiah from the Orion constellation, as described in the Hebrew Bible. This was a weird sounding piece comprised of ten minutes or so of music which , I must confess, bored me to death.

After Lee then came Janáček's "Sinfonietta", a 1926 work written to celebrate Czech independence, which called for extra brass players, so the orchestra was joined by young musicians from the University of Miami's Frost School of Music. Such added weight of brass can be accompanied by a loss of precision, but that was not the case on Sunday. Deployed around the small auxiliary stages that stand above the main stage, the brass gave a performance that was stirring without crowding out the rest of the orchestra. In the “Queen's Monastery” section, trombones and tuba achieved a rounded, refined tone in the chords with which they accompanied the beautiful melodies in the strings and winds.

A complete triumph, once again, of Mr. Tlson and his troupe. Bravo!

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