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WCO: Rossini, Moravec, Mozart

Rossini: Sinfonia from The Italian in Algiers
Paul Moravec: Aubade
Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante, K. 364
Mozart: Symphony in C Major, K. 338

Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra
Eugene Purdue, violin
Sally Chisholm, viola
David Crosby, conductor


It's a delight to be able to report that the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, playing in a brand-new venue Saturday evening -- the Norman Mitby Theater at MATC-Truax -- seems poised to re-emerge from a long eclipse behind the shadow of financial woes, and once again offer the community the opportunity to hear concert music well-suited to a smaller ensemble. Conductor David Crosby, certainly a man of great perseverance, confidently and capably directed a good program that included some fine solo playing and the world premiere performance of a very interesting work for strings by Paul Moravec.

I'm no great fan of Rossini, but the andante opening of the Sinfonia from "The Italian in Algiers" signaled at once that we would have a high-precision evening full of subtle gradations. The Moravec work was next, but I'll come back to it.

The second half of the program was given to Mozart, and added to my delight was the sight and sound of a fortepiano continuo. The town has only one fortepianist that I know of, Trevor Stephenson, and I'm glad he's taking part in these performances.

Violinist Eugene Purdue and violist Sally Chisholm performed as soloists in the Sinfonia Concertante, K. 364 of Mozart. In what is surely one of the most engaging works of all time, Purdue and Chisholm avoided flashy effects and strove for sensitivity and delicacy in their reading. It was a success not by brilliance but by strategy -- the score provides all the greatness one needs, and nothing need be added to bring out that marvel.

The Symphony in C Major, K. 338 is a fairly serious piece, and it was presented here with all its repeats intact, I'm glad to say. The work marks the end of Mozart's time in Salzburg, summing up one major creative period as it lays the cornerstone of what would become an enormous outpouring in the next period. The vigorous first movement (allegro maestoso) foreshadows the grandeur still to come in the later symphonies. Few things are more lovely than this work's second movement (andante), and I think if I were asked to choose a single section as the apex of the concert, this would be it. The finale (presto), for a change a gigue rather than a rondo, provided a stirring, whirling close to both the piece and the concert.

It isn't really possible to give a comprehensive report of a brand-new piece of music on the basis of a single hearing. Paul Moravec's 15-minute Aubade is scored for five-part string orchestra, and I found it very good music indeed. In keeping perhaps with the summing-up of our century's unparalleled internationalization of styles, the piece could have been written almost any time after 1925. Although the work is itself and not an imitation of anything else, this first hearing carried echoes to my ear of the English composer Lennox Berkeley, Shostakovich, the Americans Barber and Copland, and even the earlier Stravinsky. It was dominated by lyrically open structures and tonal harmonies, and in the second of its three movements by a pensive intensity that contrasted with the daybreak concept of the word "aubade." The third movement's intricate rhythms and bright sounds dispel these more sombre qualities, however. I want to hear it again.

The WCO sounds good in its new home, better than I remember from its earlier incarnations. Crosby, too, seems more flexible and self-assured at the helm, and the results sounded very promising to me.

Isthmus, February, 1992
Copyright 1992 Jess Anderson

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