By Edward Kliszus
Tonight was an event when The Orchestra Now Performs Barber, Strauss, and Schumann. The concert unfolded in New York City’s Peter Norton Symphony Space. In this free concert, a full house enjoyed a marvelous selection of vital, essential selections from the orchestral canon.
Gossip and Backbiting
Violinist Judith Kim eloquently introduced the first two works, Samuel Barber’s programmatic The School for Scandal Overture, Op. 5 (1933), and Richard Strauss’s remarkable tone poem, Death and Transfiguration. Op. 24 (1890). Kim articulately described each work’s provenance, noting that The Overture was rooted in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 18th-century eponymous drama, which satirized the gossip and backbiting of the British upper class. She stressed that Strauss’s work portrayed the artist’s struggle with mortality.
Conductor Zachary Schwartzman launched Barber’s vibrant, lively composition, portraying the humor and sophistication of Sheridan’s play. After the powerful opening bars, the strings advanced angular melodic structures. These proceeded splendid woodwind passages leading to expansive, orchestral, cinematic soundscapes.
Lush String and Horn Passages
A delightful melody performed by the oboe imbued the piece with an air of playfulness and whimsy before the lush string and horn passages. The Orchestra masterfully portrayed the work’s rhythmic energy and dynamic contrasts, honoring Barber’s characteristic stylings.
These young artists ultimately captured the work’s irony, lightheartedness, and seamless blending of classical traditions with contemporary sensibilities that are faithful to the work’s source material.
The Orchestra commanded the rich pathos of Strauss’s masterpiece. The work’s themes demanded sophisticated employment of orchestral techniques to paint vivid sonic images of the artist’s physical and emotional turmoil before his imminent death. This and more were achieved as the artists musically explored Strauss’s experiences with death, dying, and the complex associated emotions.
Tonight’s interpretation of the Strauss reflected expressive, refined use of musical elements. The musicians performed elegant melodic passages through rich, lush strings, brass, and soulful woodwinds. They brought to life the artist’s struggle to come to terms with his mortality. Dramatic pulsing by the tympani and a resounding gong ably characterized the inevitable passage of time.
The audience’s sonic suffusion ranged from beautiful solos from the violin concertmaster, flute, oboe, and ethereal harps. Moreover, from sweeping strings to the somber intones of the woodwind section, the music evoked a wide range of emotions in listeners. The Orchestra’s portrayal of the work’s unique structures and tonal shifts kept listeners engaged until the final triumphant notes of the transfiguration were articulated through a magnificent, ascending, and dramatic appoggiatura.
Elation and Despair
Cellist Eva Roebuck came to the forefront to introduce Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 (1841). She expressively described Schumann as a Romantic composer and noted his challenges with mental health and ultimate demise in a mental asylum. The Symphony No. 4 portrayed Schumann’s elation and despair. We discovered the work was a remake of Schumann’s Second Symphony before Roebuck introduced tonight’s conductor, Zachary Schwartzman.
Gifted Graduate Students
Maestro Schwartzman welcomed and thanked everyone for coming. His salutary remarks recognized The Orchestra Now’s accomplishments and their status as gifted graduate students of music performance. He reminded everyone that the Bard School, the home of The Orchestra Now, relied on donations to offer programs like today’s at Symphony Space.
Schwartzman also spoke of a new film entitled Maestro. It opens on November 22 and is about Leonard Bernstein’s life. It was produced by Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese, with Bradley Cooper starring as Bernstein. The Orchestra Now played a role in the movie, along with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Continuous, Immersive Flow of Sound
Schwartzman began the Orchestra’s interpretation of Schumann’s Symphony No. 4. The work’s provenance was highly significant as it was composed after Schumann recovered from a mental breakdown. As expected, the work was characterized by an enigmatic and somewhat fragmented structure and, as Schumann intended, a continuous, immersive flow of sound.
Dramatic and Lyrical Elements
The Orchestra rose to the occasion, magnificently expressing the emotional depth, transparency, and originality of this timeless masterpiece of Schumann’s genius. Listeners were mesmerized by the work’s unique harmonies and portrayal of the delicate balance between dramatic and lyrical elements. The cello solo was marvelous!
Tonight was a fantastic concert of challenging, diverse, and intriguing music. The musicians performed with intensity, purpose, and virtuosic brilliance. They delivered moments of excitement, adulation, passion, pathos, and profound serenity.
Schwartzman delivered precise, expressive leadership with aplomb; accordingly, the musicians responded with passion, bravura, and brilliance. Articulation, dynamics, entrances, and intonation were excellent, while ensemble and solo work were inspiring!
Runtime approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes, including intermission
The Orchestra Now Performs Barber, Strauss, and Schumann
Peter Norton Symphony Space
Zachary Schwartzman, Conductor
Leon Botstein, Music Director
SAMUEL BARBER The School for Scandal Overture
RICHARD STRAUSS Death and Transfiguration
ROBERT SCHUMANN Symphony No. 4
Romanze: Ziemlich langsam
Violin 1: Samuel Frois (Concertmaster), Chance McDermott, Haley Schricker, Seunghye Park, Enikő Samu, Haley Maurer Gillia, Judith Kim, Shengjia (Sherry) Zhang, Jonathan Fenwick, Leonardo Pineda ’15 TŌN ’19, Luca Sakon
Violin II: Yaewon Choi (Principal), Lana Auerbach, Nayoung Kim, Julián Andrés, Rey Peñaranda, Yi-Ting Kuo, Zeyi Sun, Emerie Mon, Gökçe Erem
Viola: Emmanuel Koh TŌN ’19 (Principal), Andrea Natalia Torres-Álvarez, Tania Ladino Ramirez, Sydney Link, Michael Halbrook, Keegan Donlon
Cello: Yuri Ahn (Principal), Dariimaa Batsaikhan, Eva Roebuck, Emma Churchill, Amelia Smerz, Sam Boundy
Bass: Rowan Puig Davis (Principal), Holdan Silva Acosta, Milad Daniari TŌN ’18, Luke Stence TŌN, ’22,
Flute: Olivia Chaikin, Principal (Barber, Strauss), Jordan Arbus, Principal (Schumann), Chase McClung, Piccolo (Barber)
Oboe: David Zoschnick, Principal (Barber, Strauss), Quinton Bodnár-Smith, Principal (Schumann), English Horn (Barber, Strauss), Shawn Hutchison
Clarinet: Colby Bond, Principal (Barber, Strauss), Zachary Gassenheimer, Principal (Schumann), Bass Clarinet (Barber, Strauss), Dávid Kéringer
Bassoon: Miranda Macias, Principal (Barber), Contrabassoon (Strauss), Kylie Bartlett, Principal (Strauss), Han-Yi Huang, Principal (Schumann)
Horn: Stefan Williams, Principal (Barber) and Assistant (Strauss), Tori Boell, Principal (Strauss), Daniel Itzkowitz, Principal (Schumann), Douglas Nunes, Ziming Zhu
Trumpet: Forrest Albano, Principal (Barber), Giulia Rath, Principal (Strauss), Jid-anan Netthai, Principal (Schumann)
Trombone: Stephen Whimple, Principal (Barber, Schumann), Zachary Johnson, Principal (Strauss), Samuel Boeger, Bass Trombone
Tuba: Tyler Woodbury
Timpani: Miles Salerni
Percussion: Petra Elek, Principal (Barber), Nick Goodson, Principal (Strauss), Luca Esposito
Harp: Cheng Wei (Ashley) Lim, Principal, Violetta Maria Norrie
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Readers may also enjoy our reviews of Transcendent Triumph and Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2, The American Symphony Orchestra and the Roaring 20s, The American Classical Orchestra presents a Romantic Fantasy, Venice City of Light at St. John the Divine, and The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony performs Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.