Debut season a rousing success

By D. S. Crafts
For the Journal
reprinted with kind permission


With its first Classics season impressively under its belt the New Mexico Philharmonic has continued the proud tradition of the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra. As the organization is under new management but comprised of the same talented players, one can only anticipate what surprises await in coming seasons. Happy surprises, one hopes.

Lately, we’ve had several evenings of Russian music in Popejoy Auditorium, but none as exciting as Saturday’s concert of gems from the 19th century repertoire, and a superlative account of the Shostakovich Violin Concerto by violinist David Felberg.
Borodin and Mussorgsky composed Russia’s most popular operas, Prince Igor and Boris Godunov respectively. The Overture to Prince Igor, long a popular concert piece in its own right, opened the program. Guest conductor Uriel Segal led an invigorated, even boisterous reading highlighted by solos from the winds (Lori Lovato, clarinet and JD Shaw, French horn, of particular note).

The program notes contained the obligatory hyperbolic denunciation of the role of the composer in Soviet Russia. Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto is said to be one of his self-suppressed works, yet it contains a wealth of obvious melody, something all but vanished in the Western “avant-garde.”
Abundantly well-known to local audiences, David Felberg either plays in or is involved with half the classical music organizations from here to Santa Fe. The outstanding performance he gave of this lengthy and challenging concerto can only add to his credit.

Beginning with the slow Nocturne, a haunting aural landscape, his sweet, alluring tone balanced itself against a soft orchestral fabric sometimes harsh, sometimes somber, sometimes otherworldly. A feast of syncopations and double stops raced against the savage tone of the Scherzo. The slow, glowing Passacaglia theme in counterpoint with the French horns ended with a lengthy solo cadenza reaching into a dazzling display of violin pyrotechnics to begin a furious Burlesque: Allegro con brio. After a mere moment’s rest, Felberg again began his demonstration of virtuosity as the orchestra erupts in frenetic mania.

Segal held the ensemble firmly in check brilliantly supporting but never overpowering the violin. No easy feat given the huge orchestra exploited tenaciously in the score.
The audience rose cacophonously to its feet as Felberg was feted on stage with a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of champagne-a moment of unforgettable testimony.

Composed as though the listener were a viewer carefully observing a gallery of paintings displayed along a spacious hall, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition was originally a piano work which Maurice Ravel arranged for orchestra. As with his own orchestral compositions, Ravel presents a bountiful showpiece for the ensemble. Suffice it say everyone in the orchestra had something interesting to play, led by Segal in a wealth of color, texture and enchanting melody, the individual sections tied together by the promenade theme which finally erupted majestically as the Great Gate at Kiev. A tour de force for the orchestra and a fitting ending to a valiant season.

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