What a way to end a season! The Monterey Symphony rang down the 2011-2012 season’s curtain with a rousing performance of Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody No. 1. That this work is popular with audiences is easy to understand – it is a supremely effective piece, and it shows off an orchestra at its best. During the ecstatic applause and standing ovation at its conclusion, there were lots of orchestra members singled out by Director Max Bragado-Darman for special acclaim. Among them were Dawn Walker (flute), Erin Finkelstein (clarinet), Bennie Cottone (oboe), Christina Mock (Concertmaster) and a few others I couldn’t identify from my seat on the far right against the wall down front.
Preceding the Enescu, most of these same principals (plus horn player Monika Warchol) were featured in Kodály’s “Dances of Marosszék.” There were some complicated rhythms in the six native songs and dances that Kodály wove together to create this piece, so sorting them out and understanding them was a challenge for many members of the audience (including me) who were hearing this piece for the first time. But, by any standard, it was exciting and effective.
In the beginning half of the concert we heard some well-known and popular works, two selections from Smetana’s Má Vlast (the Moldau and Šárka) and Fauré’s “Dolly Suite” from the original piano four-hand version in Fauré’s transcription for orchestra. No matter how many times you have heard “The Moldau,” on this occasion it sounded especially vibrant and fresh as it received a thrilling performance.
The “Dolly Suite” in its orchestral version opens up new and imaginative dimensions in a work severely restricted in its piano duet form. We heard a colorful rendition in which conductor and orchestra worked together with precision and finesse to achieve oodles of charm.
Guest Conductor David Zaches
Our Music Director and Conductor, Max Bragado-Darman had a little help at the beginning of the concert as Symphony board member David Zaches stepped up to the podium as “guest conductor” and led the orchestra through two selections from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.” I am not qualified to comment on his “stick technique,” but it sure looked and sounded pretty good to me.