Philharmonic, guest violist dazzle with virtuosity

Reviewed by Tony Villecco

While it’s no big news that the Binghamton Philharmonic has some damn fine musicians, I dare say at Sunday afternoon’s performance (Nov. 10) at Binghamton University’s Anderson Center, had I closed my eyes I would have felt the presence of the Cleveland Orchestra or even the New York Philharmonic. Yes, that’s how unified and glorious a sound the musicians produced under the capable hands of Maestro Jose-Luis Novo.

In an eclectic program ranging from classical to contemporary to modern, the concert opened with Courtly Dances from Benjamin Britten’s Gloriana, an opera that failed to catch fire like his Peter Grimes, now a staple at many opera houses. The dances had both an ethereal yet spritely feel to them though at times there was a hint of an almost funereal tonality. The orchestra had no difficulties in negotiating the elements of Britten’s interpretations ranging from a march to a Morris dance.

Violist Roberto Diaz, the afternoon’s guest soloist, played modern composer Roberto Sierra’s Concerto for Viola, String Orchestra and Percussion with authority. Each movement produced a palpable emotion, despite the continuous minor tonality and lack of hummable melody. The orchestra matched the beautiful and often passionate playing of the soloist. As an added bonus, Sierra was present at this performance.

The familiar first movement motif of the closing piece, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, was a marriage between the strings and the dynamic timpani section. The haunting and memorable second movement made one remember why Beethoven was the master of the melodic line.

In the third movement, perhaps the most regal, the orchestra sounded as if it were made up of 600 players, quite the accomplishment. The final movement produced a frenzied climax in which every musician was so in sync that one simply sat back in wonder.
I certainly don’t mean to wax poetic, but Maestro Novo was like a Nureyev, his expressive hands and arms waving with a firm but caressing lead. How the Philharmonic can top this remains to be seen but remember: I told you so.

 

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