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Once in a great while, you hear a concert in which so much goes so well, and in which the players and listeners are so swept up in the momentum, that about all that needs to be said at the conclusion is "Wow!" The July 16 concert in Dana Auditorium by the all-faculty Eastern Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Christof Perick, was such a concert. From CVNC reviews of Perick's past guest appearances and his regular concerts with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, his mastery of Romantic Austro-Germanic music was no surprise. The extra special frisson of the occasion just iced the cake.
With extraordinary unanimity of attack, all musicians and sections played at the tops of their skills in a vivid performance of Richard Strauss' "Don Juan." Perick constantly refined expression and dynamics with his left hand as he gave the beat with his baton in his right hand. Balances among the sections were excellent. The horns and trumpets were breathtakingly brilliant. The two prominent solos by Concertmaster Jeffrey Multer were strongly characterized. The woodwinds – particularly the clarinet and oboe solos – were outstanding.
Richard Strauss' Concerto for Oboe and Small Orchestra (1945, rev. 1948) was one of the fruits of the composer's post-World War II "Indian Summer." It was commissioned by John de Lancie, Principal Oboe of the Philadelphia Orchestra, but had its premiere with oboist Marcel Saillet and the Zürich Tonhalle Orchestra conducted by Volkmar Andreae. The Concerto abounds with an unending flow of melodies, and there are a number of delightful duets between the solo oboe and other "inner voices" of the orchestra. The guest soloist, Elaine Douvas, Principal Oboe of the Metropolitan Opera [Orchestra] since 1977, seemed to have an endless supply of evenly-modulated breath. Her flow of lyric melodies was seamless and almost non-stop across the uninterrupted three movements. Among the multiple chamber music-like dialogues were many between Douvas' mellow- toned oboe and Barbara Hamilton's warm and plangent viola. Other exchanges involved the oboe and clarinetist Shannon Scott, flutist Les Roettges, and bassoonist Cedric Coleman.
Over the past 30 or so years, I have heard a number of decent to very fine performances of Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 in F, Op. 68, but none was better than the one turned in by Perick and the musicians on this occasion. The opening movement was unexpectedly fast – maybe the tempo was a nod to the Early Music movement, or perhaps just haste to get into the shade of the woods to escape the blistering sunshine. Tight ensemble, refined dynamics, and nuanced phrasing were the order of the day. I would have to list the names of nearly half the orchestra in order to credit the many wonderful solos – various bird-calls, flute trills, and clarinet songs - in the second movement. The tempo of this movement, "Scene at the brook," was ideal. The horns, led by Leslie Norton, were simply superb in the third movement. The dance of the peasants was flawlessly evoked. The thunder cracks of John Fedderson's timpani, and the ominous trombones helped conjure up driving rain such as I had experienced in the real world just hours before. Perick drew full and rich sonority – dark, visceral rumblings – from the double basses and cellos. Pastoral simplicity returned in the lyrical last movement. Perick was recalled to the stage many times and had various sections stand to share the prolonged applause.
For a list of the EMF's concerts, click here [inactive 11/05].