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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Life + Arts

Concerto Orchestra is a crowd-pleaser

Piano concerto, tone poem, violin concerto, song cycle — an egalitarian program heads off the MSM Concerto Orchestra’s Tuesday evening debut at the Moores Opera House.

Wanting to give talented UH soloists a chance to perform with an orchestra, conductor Pierre-Alain Chevalier created the MSM Concerto Orchestra.

Chevalier said that the the orchestra is an all-volunteer group of musicians who joined the endeavor to gain orchestral experience — the pieces that were performed are staples of the concerto repertory and covered a wide range of styles from the Baroque to the 20th century.

“The diversity of the repertoire and the outstanding performances are sure to impress,” he said.

The evening’s talented soloists touched four corners of instrumental possibility. They included pianist Krume Andreevski, flutist Caity Piccini, violinist Mauricio Oliveros and baritone James D. Rodriguez.

The orchestra and soloist Andreevski kicked off the program with J. S. Bach’s “Keyboard Concerto in D minor.”

“This concerto was originally written for violin, but the copy of this original version is supposedly lost,” Andreevski said. “In the harpsichord version, Bach added to the melodic line a thicker texture with chords and arpeggios to make it as virtuosic as the violin original.”

Andreevski, a doctoral candidate from Macedonia, proved to be a stellar opening act. His Bach was naturally driven with harpsichord-like clarity, yet sounded colorfully pianistic.

The slow movement was somber before giving way to the rhythmic finale in triple meter. Many consider this to be Bach’s homage to his predecessor Antonio Vivaldi.

Andreevski’s stage presence was exemplary and apt. He never dallied away from the nature of the piece: no melodramatic gesturing to some higher authority and no sordid groping for the keys — just good old-fashioned pianism.

The next act involved the Poem for flute and orchestra by Charles Griffes, who is sadly a much-neglected 20th century American composer.

Piccini said the piece was written in 1918 for flutist George Barrere.

“It is a short, single-movement work, but features a wide display of colors and contrasts within ten minutes,” Piccini said.

The poem is an ideal piece to show Piccini’s lyricism. The grave words called to mind some of the horror-film music of the black-and-white era.

When Piccini entered the mix, she fashioned some admirable phrasing.

In the more flighty passages, she had versatility as well.

Mauricio Oliveros was the soloist for Mozart’s “Violin Concerto in G,” which is one of his most recognizable violin concertos.

Playing Mozart takes a measure of guts — it is simple music that exposes the artistry of the performer. For that reason, many conservatory students avoid Mozart like the plague.

Oliveros delivered in a piece that is unfortunately the frequent victim of hackneying by innumerable self-proclaimed prodigies.

The program concluded with James D. Rodriguez singing Gustav Mahler’s first song cycle — the “Songs of a Wayfarer.”

Rodriguez said that Mahler’s “Songs of a Wayfarer” is one of Mahler’s “most famous song cycles and tells the story of an individual’s emotional journey after heartbreak.”

The orchestra — led by Chevalier — offered their bittersweet sympathies, which Rodriguez seized upon as he journeyed through the degrees of grief in this four-section work.

Interestingly, Mahler would later recapture and rework many of these moments into his First Symphony.

Rodriguez said he was “extremely honored to have been chosen to make music with so many a talented individuals.”

The MSM Concerto Orchestra and Maestro Chevalier are onto something with this project. Who knows? Maybe one day the idea will catch on so that every major orchestra will invite multiple soloists to perform. From the applause, the audience clearly approved.

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