REVIEW (HT – Peter Jacobi): Fine orchestra and intuitive conductor make music come alive


MUSIC REVIEW: Fine orchestra and intuitive conductor make music come alive

By Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer |
February 8, 2013

Not all compositions inspired by the works of Shakespeare are worthy of the originals. There can be no doubt, however, that Prokofiev’s score for a ballet retelling of “Romeo and Juliet” is.

It begs to be danced, of course, but when played by a fine orchestra and intuitive conductor, it can stand alone as a brilliant celebration of that timelessly gripping Shakespearean tragedy of young love thwarted by an environment of needless hate. In the Indiana University Symphony Orchestra and its guest conductor, Stuart Malina, on Wednesday evening in the Musical Arts Center, the music certainly had a team to make this evocative music come alive, even without the yearned-for dancers.

Malina chose six sections from the two “Romeo and Juliet” Suites Prokofiev shaped from his total ballet package: the sinister, mood-setting “Montagues and Capulets,” establishing the emotional environment for the unfolding drama; the winsome portrait of “Juliet, the Young Girl”; the ravishing “Balcony Scene”; “The Death of Tybalt,” mirroring the duel with Mercutio and Tybalt’s funeral; the frothy “Folk Dance,” and the somber, concluding “Romeo at Juliet’s Tomb.” Each segment gained the power of suggestion, and all were played exceptionally.

Wednesday’s concert also featured an outstanding double bass player, Jacobs School of Music student Daniel Carson, who dared to take on one of the Giovanni Bottesini concertos, the Number 2 in B Minor, that this 19th century composer/double bass virtuoso wrote as a challenge for himself and future serious practitioners of the instrument. Carson had no problems conquering the intricacies — cadenza and all — poured by Bottesini into the opening and closing Allegros. And for the lovely cantabile melody of the in-between Andante, he supplied the sweet elegance of a cello’s tone, a goal to be aimed for but not so often achieved.

Malina opened the concert with an intoxicating, luminous reading of Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun,” an Impressionistic gem that’s become all too familiar but remains an aural astonishment when interpreted as sensuously as it was by the symphony, briefed and guided so deftly by their visiting maestro. Music director of the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra and principal guest conductor of the Florida Orchestra, Malina deserves a return visit.

Copyright: 2013

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