On Saturday, October 5 at the Civic Center, the Santa Cruz County Symphony under the direction of the long awaited, newly appointed Music Director Daniel Stewart, opened its 2013-14 Season. The bottom line is Stewart far exceeded all expectations with a monumental opening concert! The concert program consisted of Strauss’s Overture to Die Fledermaus, Op. 362 (1874); Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K. 503 (1786) featuring Jeffrey Kahane, pianist and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36 (1877).
This concert marked the sixth work I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing under the baton of Maestro Stewart. All six were performed without a score, which obviously tells you about his preparation. I would like to add the orchestra never sounded better.
The first work on the program, Die Fledermaus, opened with high energy followed by impressive, in tune, simultaneous entrances from the various instrument groups. Stewart rearranged what is considered the “normal” orchestral seating plan by placing the cellos and basses on the left of the conductor instead of the right. The musical effect was excellent.
Jeffery Kahane’s interpretation of the Mozart Piano Concerto was simply masterful, and it was noted that both soloist and conductor connected with frequent eye contact throughout the entire work.
The Mozart concerto K. 503 began with its unusually expansive orchestral exposition of some 90 measures, filled with expressive thematic ideas, followed by a splendid dialogue between the orchestra and pianist. Of special importance, Kahane composed the cadenza at the end of the first movement, the mark of a true Mozartian interpreter of the highest order! Kahane’s playing of the Andante second movement was eloquent, gracefully elaborated and treated the thematic material with fluidity and compelling transparency. The third movement Allegretto, continued to communicate interpretive depth and an astutely applied mixture of dynamic balance, timbre and a delightful fusion of lyricism and musical intimacy.
Tchaikovsky’s Symphony 4 opened with the brass section that deserved an A + mark for perfect execution. The flute, clarinet and bassoon deserved no less than the same high mark in all three works. In all the three movements of the symphony Maestro Stewart employed impressive musical gestures that appeared to be sculpted out of the air. The pizzicatos of the third movement designated Scherzo: Pizzicato ostinato carried and expanded into the fourth and final movement with superb playing by the string and wind sections. The entire work was full-toned with huge dynamics and razor sharp rhythmic drive. At the end Maestro Stewart singled out for acclaim each section of the orchestra for their outstanding performance. After several standing ovation curtain calls the memorable evening ended and echoing through the space one could hear many patrons say “We can’t wait for the next concert!” Excellent concert Maestro Daniel Stewart, you’re off to a flying start!