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FUS: Schubert, Mendelssohn

Schubert: Dances
Schubert: Rondo in A Major, D. 438
Schubert: Konzertstück in D Major, D. 345
Mendelssohn: Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra

Performers (partial list)
Vartan Manoogian, violin
Karlos Moser, piano
Rictor Noren, violin
Jon Vriesacker, violin
Marcia Bean, viola
Janet Grieve, cello
ellsworth snyder, conductor


The annual summer series at the First Unitarian Society got underway Friday evening with an unusual program that would have been wonderful, had it been performed to a somewhat higher standard. Even in the usually more relaxed atmosphere of summer, a string orchestra should play approximately in tune; this group didn't, not by a long shot. In addition, the ensemble was often quite ragged. The opening selection of Schubert minuets and trios, further hobbled by lugubrious tempos, was really painful to hear.

The balance of the program featured violinist Vartan Manoogian. Schubert's Rondo in A Major, D. 438, for solo violin and string quartet, offers a highly decorated solo line in the opening adagio, followed by a demandingly brilliant allegro giusto. The solo playing was good, but the quartet (Rictor Noren, Jon Vriesacker, Marcia Bean and Janet Grieve) was by turns timid, bland and heavy in character.

Concluding the first half, Schubert's Konzertstück in D Major, D. 345 afforded Manoogian ample opportunity to be expressive and expansive in the opening adagio and to be highly animated in the quick allegro that rounds out the work. But the orchestra, now augmented with oboes, trumpets, and tympani, proved only marginally better than before in both intonation and ensemble. Conductor ellsworth snyder did not seem at all in control of his forces.

Following closely on the heels of the recent MSO performance of a double piano concerto by the 14-year-old Mendelssohn, it was fascinating to hear another Mendelssohn double, for violin and piano, written the same year. Joining Manoogian was pianist Karlos Moser. It's quite a large work, its three movements spanning 37 minutes. Tempos in the outer quick movements seemed just, but the adagio only barely managed to move forward. On this first hearing the piece seemed to me well written, full of fun technical playing, impassioned lyrical episodes and adventuresome harmonic ideas. Both soloists played with distinction, while the orchestra, though hardly exemplary, was by then at least familiar.

The program drew the largest audience I've seen for the Unitarian series. They were very enthusiastic in their applause. Clearly there is a great thirst for summer concerts. It should be rewarded rather better than it was on this occasion.

Isthmus, June, 1997
Copyright 1997 Jess Anderson

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