Caramoor International Music Festival
Michael Barrett, Chief Executive and General Director
Orchestra of St. Luke’s
With Ingrid Fliter, piano
Donald Runnicles, conductor
Press: Cohn Dutcher Associates
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
August 12, 2006
John Adams (b. 1947): Chamber Symphony: Mongrel Airs, Aria with Walking Bass, Roadrunner.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791): Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488: Allegro, Andante, Presto.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791): Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551 (“Jupiter”): Allegro Vivace, Andante Cantabile, Menuetto (Allegretto) & Trio, Finale (Molto Allegro).
Donald Runnicles, Principal Conductor, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, opened tonight’s final summer Caramoor concert, in the gothic-adorned Venetian Theater, amidst the best weather of the season, with a “user-friendly” description of John Adams’ 1992 Chamber Symphony, and he asked each ensemble or solo instrument, featured in this work, to offer a “sneak preview”. I found the work surprisingly interesting and engaging, and the extra attention to woo appreciation in advance was greatly overdone. Adams is said to have modeled this symphony after one by Schoenberg, and it has melodic, dissonant, and jazzy interludes.
I heard similarities to compositions by Piazzolla and Bernstein in Mongrel Airs, with atonal, jazzy passages. The solo violin, cello, and bass were featured early, and the synthesizer and drums added a bit of clavé beat. Aria with Walking Bass began with an ethereal flute and bassoons, as the string provided rich background. With contemporary, foreboding effects, the horns swelled after bass and cello solos, and rhythmic, exotic percussion followed. The flute soared above a waterfall of eerie strings. Roadrunner included dynamic, percussive fiddles, almost a bluegrass sound, before cacophonic and challenging symphonic variations. The synthesizer seemed to mimic a prepared piano, and the orchestra swelled to the conclusion.
Ingrid Fliter, tonight’s guest pianist, recently won the fifth Gilmore Artist Award, made to a pianist for musicianship, charisma, and ability to have an international concert career. The Argentine-born Ms. Fliter, 33 years old, made her Buenos Aires debut at 16 at Teatro Colon. She has recorded live from Amsterdam on VAI Audio Label. Ms. Fliter is a stunning artist, with long blonde hair, and, in a long, black dress, cut an imposing figure at the piano. Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 has renowned musicality, especially in the second movement.
The Allegro was introduced with lyrical and sweeping strings that built in melodic persuasion. The theme on floating flute was echoed by Ms. Fliter’s Steinway grand with clarity and charm. The same theme built once again in dramatic pauses. The Andante, opening with a poignant piano solo, was slow, quiet, and sorrowful. The orchestra repeated the very familiar theme. Maestro Runnicles kept his orchestra rich and resonant with no baton, but, instead, whole body motion in the moment. He engaged each and every musician to maximum potential, as the concerto sang amidst the trees and breezy night air.
Without a pause, the Presto ensued, with Ms. Fliter’s rapid introduction and melodic momentum. Her performance was flawless, as each note resounded with accuracy in timing, along with uniqueness in interpretation. She bounced up to greet the conductor, just as the final bars were played. The Westchester audience was effusive in its accolades. Ms. Fliter is certainly an artist to watch, whose future is as bright as tonight’s performance.
The “Jupiter” Symphony, under Maestro Runnicles’ baton, began in Allegro Vivace with heraldic formality. The violins and violas played a contrasting theme, that developed dramatically within the orchestra’s crisp cohesion. This was superb sound, and the percussive finale was intense. The slow, sensitive theme in the Andante Cantabile was passed between violas and violins, and the excellent acoustics allowed the softer theme to rise above the chorus of cicadas. The final notes ended in a whisper, with full instrumentation.
The Menuetto (Allegretto) & Trio was led by violins in rhythmic, regal fashion, with echoing flutes and highly structured repetitions. This particular movement could easily serve as a classic ballet score. After a brief pause, the Finale (Molto Allegro) began in a racing and swelling dervish. There were vibrant contrasts in tone and volume, as windy, whirling strings were joined by towering brass and steady percussion. Maestro Runnicles presented excellent rapport with his musicians. The thundering theme approached the finale several times, before mellowing and building again and again. During the mellow moments, an occasional flute and string ensemble were engagingly showcased.
Kudos to Caramoor, to Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and to Maestro Runnicles.