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MSO: Falletta Conducts, with Christopher O'Riley, Piano
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Program
Rossini: Overture to The Barber of Seville
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15
Berlioz: Orchestral Excerpts from Romeo and Juliet, Dramatic Symphony, Op. 17

Performers
Madison Symphony Orchestra
Christopher O'Riley, piano
Joann Falletta, conductor

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Guest conductor Joann Falletta scored only a partial success at Saturday evening's Madison Symphony Orchestra concert before a full house at the Oscar Mayer Theatre. In both purely symphonic works, the "Overture to The Barber of Seville" by Rossini and "Orchestral Excerpts from Romeo and Juliet, Dramatic Symphony, Op. 17" by Berlioz, there were a number of instances of very fine playing by the orchestra and really lovely interpretation by Falletta. But in both, particularly in the technically very taxing Berlioz, there were many moments when things simply did not gel on the larger scale.

It was obvious that Falletta knew the works perfectly, so I think it resolves to a matter of conducting style. Though appropriate to the rhythmic vagaries of such a Romantic work as the Berlioz, the grand lyrical sweep of her baton did not always pinpoint accurately enough the moment of the beat, giving rise to lapses of ensemble and dynamic shading.

There was no problem of this sort in the Beethoven "Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15." Here Falletta was in crisp control, yet wonderfully sensitive to the highly affecting playing of soloist Christopher O'Riley, who was quite fabulous. His playing was flawlessly clean and controlled, yet without ever being pedantic or rigid. The piece is deceptively difficult, though O'Riley's sizable technical prowess was more than sufficient to meet the challenge. His sound was bright and clear, and in the slow movement, so lyrical as to wring tears from a stone. The highly anachronistic and far too lengthy cadenza in the first movement sounded a stylistically jarring note, but it was very well played.

After several bows together, Falletta graciously indicated that O'Riley should play an encore. The love duet music from Prokofief's ballet Romeo and Juliet gave O'Riley an opportunity to show his full range as a player and an interpreter. It gave me goosebumps! What a great piece, and so beautifully played.

Isthmus, October, 1995
Copyright 1995 Jess Anderson




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