Music Review: Young musicians excel
By Jim Lowe
Staff Writer | May 20,2013
BURLINGTON — Youth — and youthful — prevailed at the Burlington Chamber Orchestra’s 2012-13 season finale Saturday at St. Michael’s College’s McCarthy Arts Center. Not only did the concert introduce a new work by a high school-age composer and feature a teen soloist, it closed with a sparkling work by Benjamin Britten based on his own childhood compositions.
The 20th-century British composer based his “Simple Symphony,” Opus 4, on music he wrote between the ages of 9 and 12. But, although the themes are, in fact, simple, the treatment is anything but. Still, the flavor is youthful and exuberant, while Britten’s salty harmonic language underneath makes the result of this four-movement work for strings anything but mundane.
The BCO, made up of local professional musicians, gave a spirited and nuanced performance under the direction of guest conductor Ronald Feldman. The music director of the Berkshire (Mass.) Symphony, Feldman accentuated the dance rhythms of the opening “Boisterous Bourée,” and the zip of “Playful Pizzicato.”
The “Sentimental Sarabande,” a masterpiece unto itself, was given a particularly expressive performance, with just the right amount of restraint to give it real power. And the “Frolicsome Finale” was just that. Feldman and the BCO gave a delightful performance of a work that was delightful — and deeper.
“Memories Past: A Story of My Life,” by Noah Marconi, a Shelburne resident and senior at Champlain Valley Union High School, had its impressive premiere by Feldman and the BCO. The eight-minute tone poem for strings and winds proved expressive and expansive in a neo-romantic vein.
Opening with a bed of sound, the cellos enter with an expressive theme that moves into the violins and then to all. This transforms to a mellow, hymn-like theme that expands; the mood becomes uneasy but then grows to a climax followed by a delightfully quiet finale.
The work’s language is tonal, but with an underlying spiciness that eliminates predictability and gives it richness. At its weakest moments, Marconi’s work sounds like a contemporary popular film score but, at its best, it feels like Respighi’s brilliant tone poems.
Pianist David Horak, a home-schooled 15-year-old from Norwich and winner of the BCO’s 2013 Young Artist Solo Competition, was the soloist in J.S. Bach’s Keyboard Concerto in f minor, BWV 1056. Horak played with clarity and a natural lyricism that made the work sing. Although a bit more breathing between phrases would have added power, Horak’s performance was inspired and beautiful. Feldman and the BCO strings accompanied sensitively.
The program opened with a substantial performance of Haydn’s substantial Symphony No. 74 in E-flat Major. Although the Menuetto: Allegretto would have been more elegant with a bit lighter touch, Feldman and the BCO largely achieved the balance of elegance and earthiness throughout that makes Haydn unique.
Saturday’s concert is evidence of the growing professional — and student — level of classical music performance in the region. It was a truly rewarding concert.
Burlington Chamber Orchestra
For information about the Burlington Chamber Orchestra’s 2013-14 season, go online to www.bcovt.org.