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WCO: Ravel, Bizet
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Program
Ravel: Le Tombeau de Couperin
Bizet: Symphony in C Major
Ravel: Piano Concerto in G Major

Performers
Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra
Tian Ying, piano
Andrew Sewell, conductor

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Andrew Sewell, the third and final contender for the post of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra's music director, achieved a notable success Saturday evening at the First Congregational Church in a program devoted to Ravel and Bizet, thanks in no small part to pianist Tian Ying, who gave a simply spectacular performance of Ravel's Concerto in G Major. The orchestra players too were impressive in this piece and in Bizet's youthful Symphony in C Major.

Ying's fingers are as solid and secure as any I've heard. Ever. I know the piece well and did not spot even small flaws in its very demanding outer movements. But the slow movement was the major revelation: instead of the insouciant simplicity one usually hears there, Ying brought a somewhat Beethoven-like, lyrically probing intensity to his reading, running the high risk of overinterpreting the score. The gamble paid off, opening up new musical terrains by daring to be original in a familiar work. At 31, Ying can expect a great future if he maintains such a high level of musicianship. Contributing greatly to the polish of this piece, Sewell paid unusually close attention to the soloist's nuances.

The Bizet's fast movements were a technical stretch for the WCO players, but that's part of the challenge of growth for any established ensemble. Here too the slow movement (adagio) offers a lyrical expansiveness uncommon for even the most romantic 17-year-old, and Sewell, conducting from memory, metaphorically turned over every stone. It was gorgeous music and really beautiful playing.

Given the strength of the concerto that was to follow, opening the program with Ravel's orchestration of movements from his piano suite Le tombeau de Couperin was perhaps not the best plan, especially since the two inner dance movements came off as decidedly matter-of-fact, rather than alluringly pensive as they clearly are in the piano score.

WCO executive director Robert Sorge tells me the decision will be made early next month and that all three candidates (Sewell, Elizabeth Stoyanovich and Kirk Muspratt) have committed themselves to accepting the music directorship if offered. On the basis of the summer pops concerts, I thought Stoyanovich had the edge, but for the three formal concerts it seems to me Sewell's the leader. With input from the WCO board, staff and players, it's going to be a pretty tough call for the selection committee, I think. At least we won't have long to wait.

Isthmus, January, 2000
Copyright 2000 Jess Anderson




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