The Orlando Philharmonic moves forward after last Saturday’s concert, with a strong program featuring music of highly emotional power and virtuosic demands. The concert at the Bob Carr, part of the 2011-2012 season, brought back renowned piano virtuoso William Wolfram, who last performed with the OPO the popular Piano Concerto No. 2 by Rachmaninoff.
To open the evening’s program – which mainly celebrated the Romantic tradition and its glorious orchestral power – Maestro Christopher Wilkins chose Weber’s Der Freischütz Overture. Although this German conductor and standout composer of Romantic opera of his country hardly lived to be 40, his output bears a strong significance in the history of the genre. In addition to superb orchestration, the libretto employed for his most famous opera, Der Freischütz, makes it a thrill. The most memorable scene of the opera is the casting of the magic bullets, after the hero of the story – a marksman in a forest – sells his soul to the devil. Wilkins’ handling of the orchestra was poised and effective; he balanced the instrumental groupings really well and drew the best of each separate force. Especially well sounded the brass section, as always a strong point in the performances of the OPO. Weber’s score includes a variety of ideas that are later developed in the opera, and the orchestra gave the audience a great reading of the preliminary portion of Weber’s unforgettable piece.
Following was a great little piece by local contemporary composer Daniel Crozier, a faculty member at the prestigious Rollins College. Crozier introduced his piece by saying that someone made a comment saying that it sounds like ‘good cartoon music,’ but it is so much more than that. The piece is well balanced and follows a recognizable structure, although it is not strictly constrained to a particular form. Making heavy use of woodwinds, Crozier’s Capriccio features an early appearance by the clarinet, whose sinuous melody comes back and established the tone of the music in general. The composer makes use of short melodies throughout, which are passed from one group to another and culminate in a section that releases orchestral jabs, before the opening lines are acknowledged at the conclusion of the piece. Crozier’s piece is a fun ride, sometimes playful, sometimes suspenseful. It is great to see Wilkins include music by local talent in OPO concerts.
Paul Hindemith was outspoken about his ideas regarding the ‘purpose’ of music: he thought that the composer’s work should have a raison d’être that justified its existence; in other words, there had to be a function that the composer’s music served and he should not compose just for the sake of it. Be that as it may, he did manage to become a great composer himself and his Symphonic Metamorphosis, the last selection before the evening’s main feature, was proof of that. In fact, this was probably the highlight of the night, as it showed Wilkins’ ensemble at its very best and it was riveting throughout. Apparently Hindemith’s aforementioned purpose for this particular piece was to tip his hat to the music of Weber, so the pairing of the pieces in the program is no accident. The Metamorphosisis a large-scale orchestral work in four movements, resembling a symphony, and showcases each orchestral group with remarkable finesse. Everything was top-notch about the execution of this piece. The strings were tight, the brass was powerful, the woodwinds were piercing and the percussion was bold. Wilkins’ tempo was rigid, and, most importantly, he successfully led the ensemble in a well-rounded and coherent fashion.
And on to the heavyweight of the night, Brahms’ bulky Piano Concerto No. 1, with Wolfram as soloist. It was evident from the very beginning that a lot of preparation went into the execution of this very dramatic piece. Brahms’ approach to the composition of this long piece was to masterfully fuse soloist and orchestra to form a unified orchestral drive, unlike the concertos of earlier Romantic composers, such as Chopin. Wolfram, clearly an accomplished artist with total control over the piano, did a wonderful job. With striking runs over the keyboard, he was able to express the composer’s feelings of turmoil and unrest over his friend Robert Schumann’s suicide attempt. The interaction with the orchestra was solid and well carried by the conductor. Special mention deserve Carl Rendek, on the timpani and Mark Fischer, on French horn. Even though Brahms’ score for this concerto of vast proportions can be a bit tedious at times, it was their virtuosity, as well as that of the soloist and of the rest of the orchestra, that made for an evening of musical brilliance. The OPO is marching strong in this new year and regular patrons are looking forward to the orchestra’s tackling of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring next month.
To visit the Web site of the Orlando Philharmonic and learn about future concerts, click here.
To read about William Wolfram, click here.
To watch a clip of the first movement of Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1, click here.
To watch a clip of Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis, click here.
To read a review of the previous OPO concert, click here.