MUSIC REVIEW: IU PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
Everything worked in IU Philharmonic season opener
September 7, 2012
That’s what amazes: The Indiana University Philharmonic, in its current configuration, has been in existence scarcely two weeks. It has had just seven rehearsals as a unit, each of two-hour duration. And there it was on stage in the Musical Arts Center on Wednesday evening to perform the hour-long Rachmaninoff Symphony No. 2, along with a couple of challenging preliminaries.
And everything worked. Audience reaction was jubilant. The new orchestral season was under way, most promisingly.
Such can happen when players have the talent and the will. Such can happen when their conductor is capable of drawing the best from them. It did happen, thanks to the orchestra’s 90 or so members and the evening’s maestro, David Effron. Unity was achieved. So, too, one heard readings of insight and admirable freshness.
It began immediately, with the opening passages of Carl Maria von Weber’s Overture to “Oberon.” One felt as if fairy dust was drifting down; magical music meant to reflect the doings in Oberon’s elfin kingdom very much did. Effron brought forth a feather-light quality, a delicate effervescence signifying the other-worldly nature of the story. That effervescence eventually turned to exultation, a buoyant joy. An opera house orchestra would have been hard pressed to equal its effectiveness.
In classic concert format, Effron moved from overture to concerto and, then, to symphony. The evening’s concerto was Darius Milhaud’s 1934 Cello Concerto No. 1, a meaty item for its soloist, on this occasion Peter Stumpf, the former principal cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic who now calls the Jacobs School his professional home. He seemed to find no technical problems at all, even though the score offers plenty of them. What’s more, Stumpf caught the flavors, most of them — save for the middle movement marked “Grave” — winningly playful. The Stumpf cello was resonant, expressive and remarkably flexible, meaning, of course, he made it so. A reduced Philharmonic added seasonings in right dosages.
Playful the Rachmaninoff Second Symphony is not; the operative word here is grand. Everything about the work is big, extensive, extended. The builds are sweeping. The melodies are dramatically effusive. The climaxes are numerous and ever-increasingly voluptuous and booming. The orchestration is as lush as it can be. In this Rachmaninoff creation, Romanticism meets modernism, not in collision but combustible cohesion.
Maestro Effron accepted the work’s big heartedness. He seemed to encourage a let-yourself-go approach in his musicians while also not allowing them to wallow in music that, in less knowing hands, can turn to sloppy mush. Quite the opposite, he retained control so that Rachmaninoff’s large-scaled concept and artistic vigor were championed rather than undermined. All the while, the Philharmonic sounded awfully good.
Next on its agenda, in just a few weeks: Mahler’s Sixth. That’s worth anticipating.
Copyright: HeraldTimesOnline.com 2012