Reviewed by Lee Shepherd
There was far more beauty than tragedy in the Binghamton Philharmonic concert Sunday (Feb. 22) dubbed “Tragic Beauty”by Maestro Jose-Luis-Novo.
In a concert that juxtaposed three 20th century composers with one from the18th century, beauty emanated from the virtuosic abilities displayed by every section of the BPO. I’m sure orchestra members slept well that night, the well-earned rest of total exhaustion after a difficult and demanding program performed to perfection.
It seems smart for Novo to choose works that showcase the orchestra, rather than featuring a big-name soloist imported from elsewhere. (The BPO chamber concerts this season are taking the same tack.) Too often, the out-of-town talent gets all the hoop-la, while the stars in our own backyard are overlooked. Not so Sunday at Binghamton University’s Anderson Center.
Le tombeau de Couperin by Ravel — dance tunes paying homage to Couperin as the epitome of grace and elegance in the 17th century — spotlighted many sections of the orchestra in the work’s captivating, delightful rhythms. The woodwinds should be saluted for their tour de force performance.
Barber’s Adagio for Strings, which we all associate with funerals and intense mourning, was played with simplicity and great beauty, the strings propelling us upward in an expression of yearning toward an inevitable resolution and peace.
Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 in D Major (“The Classical”) is a tribute to Haydn, expressing the young Russian composer’s respect for the past as well as his own impish sense of humor. The frenetic and exuberant fourth-movement rondo put orchestra members to the test, and they passed with flying colors.
Last on the program was Schubert’s Symphony No. 4 in C minor (“The Tragic”), a piece only performed posthumously. Schubert, who died young, wrote the symphony hoping to find an aristocratic patron to finance his composing career. Written with a young man’s devil-may-care attitude, the symphony defied many of the conventions of his day. His loud
“wake-up” chords and syncopated melodies must have sounded very odd to listeners of his time. The symphony required BPO performers to give their all, often at breakneck speed.
If the musicians had been paid by the note for Sunday’s concert, they would all be rich and sitting on the French Riviera this week, escaping Binghamton’s bitterly cold winter. They deserve such a splendid reward.
It would have a tragedy of sorts if you had missed this concert, but the beauty of the situation is that you can listen to a recorded broadcast on WSKG Public Radio at 9 p.m. Monday (March 2).