Effron and company allows us to share the comfort and joy
By Peter Jacobi
The set-up on Wednesday evening looked strange for an Indiana University Chamber Orchestra concert. Before the music started, all one saw on stage in Auer Hall was a Steinway grand front and center, surrounded by a few music stands, these extended for standing rather than seated musicians.
At 8, the musicians entered, 11 students, each a string player; they took positions behind those music stands. Joining them on stage were three prominent Jacobs School faculty members: Kathryn Lukas on flute, Jorja Fleezanis on violin, and David Effron at the piano rather than on the podium.
And then, they played. They played Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto Number 5 in a fashion stylistically situated somewhere between period pure (standing, without conductor, in smaller numbers, vibrato held in check) and romanticized (piano versus harpsichord, strings not period strung). But once settled in, they offered a spirited reading, pleasant to listen to and in honest service of Bach. The faculty soloists, in particular, brought a welcome intensity to the music.
After the Bach, with stage restored to normal orchestral set-up, David Effron became the maestro again, wielding a baton while sitting on a stool to conduct fuller contingents of the Chamber Orchestra. Their material: the Concerto for Viola and Chamber Orchestra by Jacobs faculty violist and composer Atar Arad and Schubert’s Symphony Number 3.
Arad soloed in his own concerto, and to technically master the solo part surely takes someone as accomplished as he. Composer Arad has packed every sort of challenge into this 2005 work. He has said of his goal for the piece: “I wanted the viola to run as fast and jump as high as a violin. I wanted it to pirouette, to ricochet, to staccato. I wanted it to dazzle with double-stops and to sing with double harmonics.”
Well, he put all that to paper musically and, on stage, he realized the intention fully. In mood, much of the score is flavored in Arad’s oft-favored mode: melancholic, hinting at sad thoughts, restless. One often hears dissonance, as if soloist or orchestra is out of tune. One experiences more than occasional whip lashings in jarring shifts of rhythm and volume. One also hears sweet tones during which the composer seems to express his love for the instrument. All the while, the viola is in the glow of a musical spotlight and, as Arad explains, “echoes music from far away [his native Israel] and another time in my life, music that I greatly treasure and from which I cannot escape.”
The concert-ending Third Symphony of Schubert, in substance and style, pays homage to Haydn, Mozart, and early Beethoven but also strongly reveals the composer’s singular voice. The music sings, oozes Viennese charm, and bulges with energy. Effron and company bathed in its delights, allowing us to share the comfort and joy.
© Herald Times 2014