Sunday, May 09, 2010

NCCO: Bolcom Romanza Concerto

New Century Chamber Orchestra
Sea to Shining Sea

Barber: Adagio for Strings
Copland: Appalachian Spring (chamber version for 13 instruments)
Bolcom: Romanza for Violin & String Orchestra
        Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin
Copland: Hoe-Down from Rodeo

Sat, May 8, 2010 at 8pm
Herbst Theatre, San Francisco

Though concertmaster Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg leads vigorously, the New Century Chamber Orchestra is essentially conductorless. They have close ensemble nonetheless, & they showed it off in their precise synchronization in the Barber Adagio. In Appalachian Spring, clarinetist Jerry Simas played beautifully pure-toned solos with appropriately simple phrasing. I liked the facile, almost light, double-bass playing of Anthony Manzo. Jan Ketchum did fine flute solos, & the whole group had very good intonation. I find Ms. Salerno-Sonnenberg's playing to be disjointed, though she certainly expresses an enthusiasm for performance. She has an antsy stage presence, & I often do not look at her for fear of getting too distracted.

After intermission, Ms. Salerno-Sonnenberg premiered William Bolcom's Romanza violin concerto. It is in the traditional 3 contrasting movements, each having a strong dance feel. The 1st movement is restless & active. The 2nd movement, opening with an ominous bass note, is a slow waltz & contains a cadenza leading directly into the 3rd movement, a ragtime cakewalk. The piece ends with a jaunty, humorous dialogue between the soloist & the 1st violins. I found the work immediately enjoyable, & the audience responded with excitement. Mr. Bolcom came to the stage to receive flowers. With his white beard & happy demeanor, he looked a bit like Santa Claus.

The Hoe-Down carried on the foot-stomping mood. Violinist Evan Price interpolated an extended improvisation that gave us things like a fiddle version of Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man. It was great fun & earned Mr. Price a round of applause. Herbst Theatre looked full, & the audience gave the concert an enthusiastic ovation, with many standing. There was a post-concert Q & A with Mr. Bolcom, but I did not stay for it. His piece speaks for itself.

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