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Hudson Valley

Times Herald 1993 Oct

Anchorage

Utah

"...Old works reveled in new light at the Hudson Valley Philharmonic concert..."

 

Fresh and Inspired

by Marcus Kalipolites

 

You would never guess that the Hudson Valley Philharmonic was playing “war horses” - that is, symphonic works that some orchestras play over and over again. Glinka’s Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla, Rachmaninof’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in F minor remain - because of their lush sonorities and memorable passages - among the most repeated.

 

But on Friday night, the HVP gave new meaning to the expression “tried and true”. With its performance at Studley Theatre, the orchestra gave the feeling that all three works were being played for the first time - fresh and inspired.

 

Credit, of course, is due to conductor Randall Craig Fleischer. Whether using big motions with flair or miniscule and definitive waves of the baton, masterful control of every nuance is clearly his approach to exacting the right dynamics as well as precision from his players.

 

Beyond orchestral technique, however, what Fleischer brings to the HVP is a new “sound”. And just as no two actors in a well-known play interpret a role the same way, conductors also aim for qualities that suit their individual tastes. Thus, the Boston Symphony, New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia Orchestra, for example, all playing the same work with equally competent players sound different.

 

Fleischer’s ear appears to stress velvety string playing in lyrical passages and robust brass for dramatic impact. Both qualities receive good play in the opening Glinka overture, which also featured a spirited introduction, a sensitively executed mid-section and a solo passage by the cellos which was especially warm.

 

But in the Rachmaninov concerto, apart from the orchestra’s impressive support, a contradiction of sorts manifested itself in the solo playing of pianist Raymond Jackson. This concerto with its haunting melodies is about as effusive and romantic as any in the orchestral repertoire. Yet, Jackson in his interpretation remained surprisingly cool. Not only with a straight and unbending body, but his fingersalso barely rose above the keys.

 

An analogy here would suggest that, just as there are different orchestra sounds, there are indeed different keyboard sounds as well. A physicist might tell you that a piano key struck by different people sounds the same, but pianists know that “molding” will produce different qualities.

 

Molding is what was lacking in Jackson’s performance, most notably in the second movement where the orchestra, mostly in background support, allowed the soloist with a chance to really emote. It didn’t happen.

 

Notwithstanding a reserved emotional psyche, however, Jackson nevertheless came across as a masterful technician. Except that is, when, in a passage of rampaging arpeggios of the first movement, the orchestra in this single instance of heady playing, totally obscured the sounds of the piano.

 

In the performance of the Tchaikovsky symphony, several orchestral passages warrant mention - the dramatic brass pronouncement opening the first movement, the liquid sounds of the oboe and bassoon solos in the second, the lengthy passages of crisp pizzicati by all the strings in the third and lastly, the wide ranging dynamics in all sections, which brought the symphony and concert to a close.