The New Century Chamber Orchestra opened their 20th anniversary season with this splashy, audience-pleasing program. The ensemble dug into Bloch's Baroque-inspired Concert Grosso with enthusiasm. The first stand players looked at each other often, clearly enjoying the piece. There was a nice solo from viola principal Anna Kruger, & the viola section played tightly together in the fugue. The piano sat behind the orchestra, & I sometimes forgot to listen for it, even though I really liked pianist Miles Graber's limpid playing. The audience cheered the energetic performance.
NCCO honored Stuart Canin, their founding music director, by inviting him to play Mendelssohn's "other" violin concerto in D minor. I think I've only ever heard it once before, & it is appealing & happy music. Mr. Canin has a sweet string sound, & his fluid bow arm is lovely to watch, though his playing was a bit wobbly at times. The orchestra were supportive in their accompaniment & played with bite. They appreciatively stamped their feet for Mr. Canin.
The orchestra returned from intermission having added bright red accessories to their concert dress for Shchedrin's Carmen Suite. Bassist Tony Manzo looked like a Christmas present, with a big red bow tied to the scroll of his instrument. Shchedrin uses well-known themes from Carmen (& 2 other Bizet works), but he is wry & surprising, as when a timpani thud ends the act III Entr'acte or the marimbas play the March of the Toreadors. The orchestra's crescendo in the 1st movement was impressively tense & drawn-out. They played raucously. Leader Nadja Solerno-Sonnenberg, though seated, became airborne at least twice. Percussionists Galen Lemmon & Artie Storch, manning a vast array of instruments behind the orchestra, were continually on the move. They must wear out a pair of shoes each performance. The piece ends quietly, & there was a lingering silence before the audience responded with a loud standing ovation.
§ Carmen Revisited
New Century Chamber Orchestra
Ernest Bloch: Concerto Grosso No. 1 with Piano Obbligato
Felix Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in D Minor
Stuart Canin, violin
Rodion Shchedrin: Carmen Suite
Saturday, September 24, 2011, 8pm
Herbst Theatre, San Francisco
§ Members of New Century
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Music Director and Concertmaster
Karen Shinozaki Sor
Deborah Tien Price
Cassandra Lynne Richburg