Saturday’s performance of the Buffalo Philharmonic included post-romantic and modern pieces filled with high drama. The Orchestra was clearly comfortable under guest conductor Christopher Wilkins’s baton and to its credit finished the evening with as much energy as it began.
The performance began with von Weber’s Ruler of the Spirits Overture, an overture to an opera he never completed. The brief, single movement piece for full orchestra was programmatic to the extreme. The Overture tells a magical woodland tale, filled with maidens and stolen magic. The Orchestra played the parts to form, the flutes as the innocent maiden and the horns the ominous tones of the masculine pursuer. The ending was bright and shiny, a string crescendo in D Major joined by the woodwinds. The maiden’s virtue was preserved and the woodland animals scampered alongside as she made her way home.
Glazunov’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra is a complex, demanding piece. It is at turns dissonant then tuneful, rhythmically complex melding into a jaunty fanfare. The three movements were played without pause, requiring the soloist and orchestra to move seamlessly from slow, dramatic swells to stops and starts filled with pizzicato sequences and double stops. Soloist Elana Urioste’s (image) performance was nothing short of a tour de force. Glazunov’s Concerto bridges the gap between the high drama of post-romanticism and the atonal modern. It is a piece which requires not just a mastery of the instrument, but also a sophisticated musicality to interpret the complex atonalities in a way that conveys meaning to the audience. .
Ms. Urioste tailored her performance masterfully, never overplaying the highly dramatic passages while refusing to trivialize the dissonant passages in the extended solo section. Her instrument’s tone was warm throughout. The orchestra was well-rehearsed and ably kept up with the precocious talent at the front of the stage. Ms. Urioste is a musician of the highest caliber.
The performance concluded with Schubert’s Ninth Symphony. While I must confess that I have never understood the great esteem so many attach to this symphony – it is to me absurdly derivative of Beethoven — the Orchestra’s interpretation left nothing out. Although I felt the performance dragged during the middle movements, the Orchestra rallied to the slowly building climax in C Major (a la Ode to Joy). My opinion of Schubert’s Ninth, I would point out, was clearly a minority one. The nearly full house at Kleinhans was quickly to its feet as the final cadence rang.
I believe a special note of praise is due timpanists Mark Hodges and Dinesh Joseph. Each of the three pieces included demanding parts for their instruments and anything less than a note-perfect performance would have compromised what was a great night for the Orchestra.
*The final performance takes place today @ 2:30. If you have tickets you are in for a real treat!