Not even a county-wide Level 2 Emergency will keep people away from good music!
Last Sunday, after getting about 4 – 5 – 17″ of snow (I might be exaggerating on the totals, but it was a lot, regardless!), and before the plows really had a chance to salt and plow the roads, a couple hundred classical music fans were treated to a delightful concert at the McConnell Arts Center in Worthington.
In its second performance of the season, the McConnell Arts Center Chamber Orchestra (MACCO), played to an enthusiastic audience in the Bronwynn Theatre in the McConnell Arts Center in Worthington. I say enthusiastic because the weather and roads really were crappy, but we all came out for great music anyway. The performance included some lovely music by great romantic and 20th century composers such as Bartok, Grieg, Strauss and Respighi. Here’s what was on the program.
Bartok – Romanian Folk Dances
Grieg – Holberg Suite in G, Op. 40
Strauss – Serenade in Eb, Op. 7
Respighi – Ancient Aires & Dances: Suite No. 1
Under the direction of Maestro Antoine T. Clark the program started out with Béla Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances, Sz. 68. Bartok wrote a lot of music based on folk tunes around the region of his native Hungary, then-Yugoslavia, and Romania. He even went as far as Turkey and Algeria for musical influences. This piece is no exception in that it’s based on folk music of his neighboring Romania. I especially enjoyed the Brâul – Allegro with the lovely clarinet and piccolo played by Nancy Gamso and Erin Helgeson Torres as well as the Pe Loc – Andante with the beautiful violin beautifully played by Concertmaster Juan Carlos Ortega. According to the program notes, these dances were actually re-orchestrated for the piano and violin after the original orchestral premier in Budapest in 1918.
Listening to these dances reminded me of Timisoara, Romania. It’s a beautiful city in northwestern Romania with a huge Hungarian influence – much like these dances – Romanian as interpreted by a Hungarian.
Next on the program was Edvard Grieg’s Holberg Suite in the ‘olden style’ for string orchestra, Op 40. Written to honor one of Scandinavia’s great literary figures, Ludvig Holberg, this set of 5 movements is almost the opposite of the Bartok piece in that this was first written for the piano and then orchestrated for the orchestra. The last movement, Rigaudon: Allegro con brio, was my favorite because of the play between the solo parts of the violin and viola, played again by Ortega and principal violist, Deborah Price.
After intermission we were treated to a smaller ensemble of winds – plus one double bass – for Richard Strauss’ Serenade for 13 Wind Instruments, Op. 7. It was an absolutely beautiful piece and I was just taken aback at the gorgeous tone of the oboe, performed by principal Bradley Walsh. It was amazing. He stood out in the Respighi as well.
The final piece of the concert was one that I just loved loved loved! Ottorino Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite No. 1, P.109. Instruments such as the lute and harpsichord, as originally written in 16th and 17th century France and Italy, served as the original inspiration for this piece. The addition of a harpsichord, skillfully played by Suzanne Newcomb, was probably my favorite aspect of these dances because I felt they added much more depth to the music. But then again, as a pianist, my opinion is biased!
This really was my favorite part of the concert, but my favorite eras of music are classical, baroque and early. Respighi loved the baroque era, so his music naturally takes on some of that older, more symmetrical, musical form. In my mind, his love of the baroque serves as a bridge to help bring us into the 20th century classical music era without playing something that would be deemed as overly strange or hard on the ears. I heard his Trittico Botticelliano last fall with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and of that concert, the Respighi was again my favorite.
All in all, this is just what the doctor ordered on a weekend of horrible winter weather. I’m so glad that so many people were able to get out and enjoy this music.
The McConnell Arts Center Chamber Orchestra has its next concert on Sunday, April 27 at 3pm in Bronwynn Theatre at the Peggy R. McConnell Arts Center. Tickets range in price from $12 for students, to $25 at the door (less, if ordered in advance online). I encourage you to go hear them play. It’s a small, intimate setting and you don’t even have to dress up if you don’t want to. Across the hall from the theatre is also an art gallery which you can enjoy at no charge before and after the concert.