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WCO: Bach, Barber, Schubert
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Program
J. S. Bach: Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins, BWV 1043
Barber: Medea, Op. 23
Schubert: Symphony No. 5 in B-Flat Major, D. 485

Performers
Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra
David Perry, violin
Suzanne Beia, violin
David Crosby, conductor

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With guest David Perry and concertmaster Suzanne Beia as solo violinists and David Crosby on the podium, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra opened its Saturday evening concert at the First Congregational Church by playing Bach's Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins, BWV 1043 in good tempo and clean style. The soloists were exemplary. Perry's crisp approach contrasted nicely with Beia's fluid bowing, his incisiveness complementing her slightly warmer tone, yet both easily within the work's character. As one might expect, the contrast between the two soloists was greatest in the creamy slow movement as each trades the thematic initiative. The orchestral playing was also good, despite the miscalculation of amplifying the continuo harpsichord, which speeded its sound to our ears through speakers in the aisles always a little ahead of the acoustic ensemble onstage.

The program continued with a very rare opportunity to hear the original ballet score of Samuel Barber's Medea, Op. 23. This is a wonderful piece, highly original, thoroughly American though suffused with neo-classical elements in scoring and timbre having their roots in Stravinsky. The main motivic materials of the work are touched by Barber's great genius for expressing yearning on the one hand and inner turmoil on the other, sometimes simultaneously. But in practical terms the work is extremely difficult to play, with great independence of parts, difficult rhythms, and inherent problems in balance. As a result, perhaps, the WCO did not entirely succeed with it. There were several major lapses of violin intonation, especially in the first of the piece's nine sections. That and a few rhythmic jitters did not diminish, however, the strength of the inspired lyricism that dominates the center movement of this 31-minute masterpiece.

Audiences the world over can expect major exposure to Schubert this year, the 200th anniversary of his birth. The WCO offered the very classical and ever delightful Symphony No. 5 in B-Flat Major, D. 485 and played it with evident enjoyment. Tempos were good in all four movements, though in the quick Menuetto, there was a tendency to speed up during the repeats. The slow movement was more beat-conscious than I would have liked, which lent a kind of thumpiness to a line that could have been more relaxed and flowing. In the finale too, there was a relentless quality as similar materials returned in too nearly the same exact manner of playing as their earlier appearances. But nevertheless it was on the whole very well played.

The church was not quite full, but clearly the WCO's subscriber support is growing, to judge by the increased number of seats reserved for them. Applause was certainly well deserved and unstintingly offered.

Isthmus, February, 1997
Copyright 1997 Jess Anderson




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