Acclaimed guest Conductor JoAnn Falletta and The Orchestra Now arrived on stage to bask in the beautiful Rose Theater at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall with a full house in attendance. Falletta alighted the podium to masterfully lead the orchestra through a memorable afternoon of musical triumphs. Falletta’s baton was expressive and precise, effectively leading today’s luscious panoply of complex orchestral permutations.
The Orchestra Now stands proudly in a well-earned tradition of excellence among the superb symphony orchestras that regularly perform in New York City. And while they celebrate major standard repertoire (sometimes called the three B’s – Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms), they take care to include adventurous works that warrant recognition and performance before eager patrons.
The Orchestra Now is comprised of accomplished young artists from around the world. They assembled to express the composer’s intentions and hone their already refined performance skills. The music in this concert employed a large orchestra that included a piano, celeste, five percussionists, timpani, two contrabassoons, two harps, and a bass clarinet. They were geared for anything.
Today’s program was exciting and richly diverse. Solos around the stage were ubiquitous and challenged the artists while thrilling listeners. Each orchestra section was repeatedly featured and demonstrated the power and vitality of the woodwinds, brass, percussion, and strings sections. And while some orchestras have reverted to the 18th and 19th-century practice of arranging the violin I and violin II sections across the stage front, it’s always a treat to not only hear but see the cello section to the conductor’s right backed up by the contrabasses as envisioned by renowned Philadelphia Orchestra conductor Leopold Stokowski.
The concert began with Fandangos (2000) by Roberto Sierra. This was an apposite opener with its kaleidoscope of sonic colors, drive, energy, and vitality that displayed the orchestra’s technical and expressive mastery of challenging forms and chromatic motifs. Inspired by Spanish dance, it could inspire an audience to dance if invited. Fandangos also expressed rich dissonances, particularly noticeable in the brass section that delightfully interrupted melodic consonant passages. Of note was a marvelous trumpet opening by principals Forrest Albano, Diana Lopez, and Maggie Tsan-Jung Wei, followed by the first of the concert’s many virtuosic woodwind passages by principal winds, including clarinetists Olivia Hamilton and Colby Bond, oboists Jasper Igusa and Shawn Hutchison, and flutists Jordan Arbus, Danielle Maeng, and Chase McClung (flute and piccolo).
Violinist Nikki Chooi joined the orchestra for a performance of Ernest Chausson’s Poeme (1896) for violin and orchestra. Chooi’s performance was inspired and flawless, and I noted many audience members nodding gently during his pensive offering. Listeners were mesmerized by Chausson’s romantic masterpiece and Chooi’s consummate, exquisite interpretation. Enthusiastic applause inspired an encore, whereas Chooi invited concertmaster Samuel Frois to perform with him Leonard Cohen’s beloved Hallelujah (1984). Contemplative, spiritual, and heartwarming.
Chooi returned to perform Maurice Ravel’s Tzigane (1924) for violin and orchestra, opening with Ravel’s marvelous cadenza. The work was crafted in a virtuosic tradition associated with a gypsy style inspired by the solo violin and folk music of Hungary, Romania, Russia, and other Eastern European countries. We see this style in other works like Pablo de Sarasate’s Zigueunerweisen (1878). Ravel refreshed the listening palate with beauty, sophistication, adventure, and harmonic daring. Bravo, Nikki Chooi, conductor JoAnn Falletta, and The Orchestra Now!
After intermission, the orchestra performed Albert Rousell’s Baccus and Ariane Suite No.2 (1930). This is an evocative work with lush tuttis, rich flourishes, and virtuosic passages. It is sometimes cinematic and provides ample opportunity for featuring sections and soloists of the orchestra. Special mention of Chase McClung on Piccolo for the chromatic fireworks.
Paul Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber (1943) closed out the program with its glimmering, lavish, magnificent soundscapes. Many consider this work Hindemith’s magnum opus, and its popularity since its 1944 premiere justifies that notion. The work celebrates melodies from von Weber, who is credited with developing German opera around the turn of the 19th century. Like today’s accompanying works, this piece featured soloists and orchestra sections. The work evolved to the breathtaking celebrated finale of the fourth movement, “March.”
Runtime with intermission 120 minutes.
The Orchestra Now
Leon Botstein, Music Director
JoAnn Falletta, Guest Conductor
James Bagwell, Associate Conductor and Academic Director
Zachary Schwartzman, Resident Conductor
Andrés Rivas, Assistant Conductor
Erica Kiesewetter, Professor of Orchestral Practice
Keisuke Ikuma, Artistic Coordinator of Chamber Music
For tickets and information for The Orchestra Now’s next concert at Carnegie Hall on October 29, click HERE.
Readers may also enjoy our reviews of the American Symphony at Carnegie Hall. The American Classical Orchestra, Maestro Kent Tritle and Musica Sacra at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and Madama Butterfly by the Metropolitan Opera.