|Haydn:||Symphony No. 47 in F Minor|
|George Walker:||Lyric for Strings (1947)|
|Mozart:||Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Major, K. 218|
Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra
Jae-Kyung Kim, violin
David Crosby, conductor
There's no reason I can think of why the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra shouldn't sound better than it did under the direction of David Crosby Saturday evening at the First Congregational Church. It was an interesting program of the size and scope appropriate for such a group, including a work previously unknown to me. There was a good soloist, violinist Jae-Kyung Kim, who played well. But the net effect was far below the potentials of both the scores and the players in this now-venerable orchestra.
The program began with Haydn's Symphony No. 47 in F Minor. An unusual work in several ways, its opening adagio seemed slower than it was, its suave and lyrical materials rattled by faulty ensemble-- in the bass, which really upsets things -- and by amazingly weak intonation in the violins. We've been over this intonation ground before, and I know for certain that the problem does not derive from any basic deficiency in the players' technique. Ensemble problems also plagued the second movement (allegro di molto), which is really delightful music, echoing C.P.E. Bach and the Mannheim school. While there was wonderful horn playing the third movement (menuet e trio), the basic rhythmic pulse was dull and heavy rather than springy and light. Only the finale (presto) went acceptably well, with excellent tempo and character, ending appropriately with no ritardando at all.
George Walker's Lyric for Strings (1947), like the more famous Adagio for Strings by his classmate at the Curtis Institute, Samuel Barber, was originally the slow movement of a string quartet. A subtle and lyrical idyll, Walker's music seemed on this first hearing to be more intensely personal than Barber's, less abstract and more intimate. This is saying a lot, because the Barber work is a real gem, so comparing favorably to it is high praise indeed. Not knowing the work well, I'm unable to say whether it got the quality of performance it clearly deserves. All I can say is it sounded fine to me.
After intermission, Kim joined Crosby for a performance of Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Major, K. 218 (1775). In remarks before the concert, Kim mentioned having been inspired at a very tender age by hearing the brightly leaping themes of the opening allegro while playing in her school orchestra. No doubt she would have been more pleased on this first occasion of playing it herself by better ensemble and better intonation supporting her efforts, but at a number of key junctures, this was not to be. In the third movement, with its alternating andante grazioso and allergo ma non troppo, there was persistent disharmony on the subject of tempo, I think chiefly because the andante was consistently taken a bit too slowly. As far as the solo playing itself was concerned, Kim was in complete control and clearly knew the part perfectly. She played with a firm grasp of the notes -- one would not call it an easy piece -- and in interpretive matters was slightly on the cautious side in the quick movements, except in the floridly anachronistic cadenzas. But she really soared in the slow movement (andante cantabile), playing Mozart's irresistibly lyrical long lines with a welcome emotional fervor and intensity. Here Crosby gave her excellent support, as well. The near-capacity audience quickly came to their feet in gracious appreciation for her first-rate performance.
Isthmus, February, 1995
Copyright 1995 Jess Anderson