YOSA Philharmonic, Jaime Laredo, Sharon Robinson
Tales of love, with tragic coloring
November 8, 2010
Two distinguished guest
soloists, violinist Jaime Laredo and cellist Sharon Robinson, provided
ample incentive to reacquaint myself with the Youth Orchestras of San
Antonio’s most advanced ensemble, the Philharmonic, in a challenging
program Nov. 7 at the Majestic Theater.
The guests’ vehicle, David Ludwig’s Double Concerto, was further
incentive -- a recent work (2008) by a significant American composer.
Flanking it were Silvestre Revueltas’s “Sensemaya” and Beethoven’s
Symphony No. 7.
Incentive No. 3 was the YOSA Philharmonic’s music director, Troy
Peters, who had won high marks for leading two San Antonio Symphony
rehearsals at short notice last week when the guest conductor took ill.
Ludwig’s Double Concerto
comprises three substantial movements and two brief interludes -- the
first featuring the solo violin in dialogue with the percussion, the
second for the solo cello posed against flutes and bassoons. According
to the composer, the three full movements essay the three classical
Greek concepts of love: The first movement (eros) was inspired by the
tale of Odysseus and Calypso, the second (agape) by Tristan and Iseult
and the third (philia) by the story of the Buddha.
Like much of Ludwig’s music, the Double Concerto evinces a tragic sense
of life. Melodies or melodic fragments yearn but seem thwarted. There
are episodes of violent struggle, deep shadow and plangent orchestral
dissonances, but also of serene beauty and vaulting athleticism. The
language is Modern in its means but Romantic in its ends.There is often
a feeling of intense strangeness as one harmonic region yields to
another, but the listener is always pulled along, wanting to know how
the story ends.
The piece was composed for Laredo and Robinson, and they made a
splendid case for it -- the violinist with his focused, richly grained
sound, energetic style and sure aim; the cellist with gorgeous,
transparent, resonant sound and unsurpassed expressiveness.
Peters proved to be a strong
conductor. His very precise but expressive stick held the orchestra
nicely together through the daunting rhythmic intricacies of
“Sensemaya.” His pacing and his lyrical line in the Beethoven Seventh
This concert was something of a trial by fire for a student orchestra.
The results were mixed. In the Beethoven, the violins couldn’t quite
hang together in the ascending staccato runs near the start of the
first movement, the horns and trumpets sometimes struggled, and there
were too many tentative entrances all around. But on the whole the
strings played pretty well, with beefy sound and good intonation, and
there were lots of confident solos from the woodwinds. The percussion
section (augmented by a couple of violinists) was quite strong in
“Sensemaya” and the Ludwig concerto.
The performance suggested that Peters is pushing his young charges as
they should be pushed, with first-rate, fully mature music that’s a
little beyond their ability; and pulling them as they should be pulled,
with clear guidance and astute musicality.