Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Up-coming: NCCO Plays Schubert, Stravinsky & Bermel

Wednesday morning I attended the open rehearsal for this week's New Century Chamber Orchestra concerts, the last of the current season. Music director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg kept checking the time & moving things along, so it was more a run-through than a working rehearsal. We got to hear the entire program. Ms. Salerno-Sonnenberg, standing in front of the orchestra, was the soloist & leader for Stravinsky's Suite Italienne. She & the orchestra gave the piece a variety of colors, & each movement had a clear, contrasting mood. The performance was energetic & emphatic. In the 4th movement, she humorously told the orchestra, "You sound like you're burping."

Composer Derek Bermel was present & explained to the audience that his piece Murmurations was based on the movements of flocks of birds he saw in Rome. It's in 3 movements, fast-slow-fast, & runs about 20 minutes. The orchestra did a good job maintaining the non-stop tremolos depicting fluttering wings in the 1st & last movements. A duet for 2 violins in the 1st movement clearly depicts 2 birds swooping around one another. The attractive 2nd movement features a long, suspended melodic line over arpeggios & pizzicatos in the low strings. Mr. Bermel followed along with a score & gave the orchestra notes after each movement. He interrupted the start of the 2nd movement, because he thought it was too slow.

After a break we heard a vigorous performance of Schubert's Death & the Maiden. The orchestra played out, often digging into their strings forcefully. The 1st & 3rd movements were percussive, & the 2nd movement was dark & urgent. The final movement was fast, loud & stomping.

Ms. Salerno-Sonnenberg has a lot of excess energy, & she could not resist making a few mischievous jokes at the expense of Mr. Bermel. The audience was attentive & applauded after each piece. Right before the break, the orchestra played Happy Birthday for a member of the audience, & someone even brought out a cake with yellow frosting. Coffee, donuts & slices of cake were served during the break.

§ New Century Chamber Orchestra
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Music Director & Concertmaster

Program 4. Schubert and Stravinsky Masterpieces

Igor Stravinsky
Suite Italienne, Arr. Albert Markov

Derek Bermel
Murmurations (2015)

Franz Schubert
String Quartet in D Minor D. 810, Death and the Maiden, Arr. Gustav Mahler

Open Rehearsal
Wednesday, May 27, 2015, 10am, Kanbar Performing Arts Center, San Francisco

Thursday, May 28, 2015, 8pm, First Congregational Church, Berkeley
Friday, May 29, 2015, 8pm, First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto
Saturday, May 30, 2015, 8pm, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, San Francisco
Sunday, May 31, 2015, 5pm, Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, San Rafael

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