Review by Edward A. Kliszus
On May 28, 2020, 9 p.m., WQXR presented a marvelous 2014 broadcast of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, led by conductor Pablo Heras-Casado and featuring cellist Alisa Weilerstein in the Venetian Theater at the Caramoor Center for Music in Katonah, NY.
This was a wonderful evening of 19th Century Concert Hall’s important Romantic favorites. After introductory informative commentary and interviews with the Conductor and cello Soloist, Maestro Pablo Heras-Casado and the Orchestra presented the perfect concert opener of flourishes, excitement, and expectation – Richard Wagner’s brief but brilliant exciting opening strains of the Prelude to Act III, Lohengrin, seemingly but a mere segment of his Gesamtkunstwerk. In Wagner’s words, this work will – “awaken the mute lines of this score to bright surrounding life.” It certainly does!
Cellist Alisa Weilerstein entered the stage to perform Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E, Op. 85. This work has been aptly described as Elgar’s “lament for a lost world’, written in 1918, just after what H. G. Wells called The Great War to End All Wars, during which Elgar did not compose. The Orchestra and soloist brought this intensely beautiful, mournful, perhaps sentimental late-Romantic work to the cerebral forefront of listeners. When Elgar composed this perhaps anachronistic work, a taste for 19th-century Romanticism was fading in many concert halls, but today, of course, the cello concertos of Elgar and Dvorak rank among the most performed in the repertoire. Weilerstein seamlessly commanded the work’s challenges, intimately bringing mature intensity, pathos, and musical meaning into the listening experience.
Antonin Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8 in G, Op. 88 (III. Allegretto grazioso — Molto vivace and IV. Allegro ma non troppo) gave the Orchestra an opportunity to shine as a solo ensemble in a broad lyric venue, musically celebrating the joy and pastoral images expressed through multiple cantabile choral-like projections of sounds. The natural beauty and timbre of Czech and Slavonic folk music delighted the ear with its dance and march dispositions. The opening trumpet fanfare in the final movement drew us unto a panoply of memorable melodies through an effectively crafted theme and variations structure.
The Orchestra of St. Luke’s gifted us with an inspired, passionate, and beautifully balanced program during these sad times of social distancing with little opportunity to hear, see, and experience live music in a concert hall. Thanks to the magic of recording, we traveled in time, thoughtfully entering a dreamscape in the Venetian Theatre at Caramoor to relive a memorable and incredible musical offering.
Please donate to the OSL Relief Fund. The work of St. Luke’s Orchestra is critical to our great city’s cultural lives and well-being. Beginning in mid-March 2020, the Orchestra was forced to cancel nearly 30 scheduled concerts, imposing incredible hardships on some of New York’s finest musicians. If you act now, you can Triple Your Impact! The OSL Relief Fund helps sustain the work needed to fulfill the OSL’s mission and ease the financial hardship of their musicians during this difficult time. Now, your gift will go even further! Spearheaded by the Board of Directors and a group of generous donors, all new gifts to the OSL Relief Fund will be matched 2:1 before June 30! To donate, click here or go to https://tinyurl.com/yblqr5dp.
Runtime: about 62 minutes.