Music Director Daniel Stewart
On Sunday January 25 at the Mello Center for the Performing Arts, the Santa Cruz Symphony presented concert number three of the 2014-2015 season.
The symphony orchestra is comprised of four major instrumental families: winds, brass, percussion and strings. Maestro Daniel Stewart focused his programming attention on the string family violins, violas, violoncellos and contrabasses. The three works performed were the well-known Adagio for Strings, Op. 11 (1936) by Samuel Barber (1910-1981); Apollon Musagete (1928; revised 1947) by Igor Stravinsky and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings (1880).
This programming offered a rare treat to hear Santa Cruz Symphony’s string section’s excellent precision observed in contrasting unmitigated power and whispering, subtle nuance.
Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings was a profoundly moving, introspective and somber experience reflecting both the fragility and magnificence of life. Maestro Stewart guided the string orchestra with flawless perfection, sensitivity and astute, artistic musicianship. The orchestra created transparent textures reflecting and conjuring memories, hopes and losses all expressed in pure silk and gold. On spot entrances throughout this and the two works to follow made the entire ensemble sound as one glorious instrument. A most moving musical experience!
The only physical element missing in this performance of Stravinsky’s Apollon Musagete were the ballet dancers, but as the work progressed and evolved, they appeared quite visibly in the eye of one’s imagination as Maestro Stewart kept the idea of ballet flowing throughout the 10 movements. The elegant, stately opening of the first movement was impressive. The artistic violin solo by Concertmaster Kristina Anderson was artistically accompanied with a beautiful tone that filled the Mello Center Hall. The following contrabass counterpoint was perfectly balanced that created a complete musical idea.
Full, robust sound opened the final work creating lush, rich sonorities and delicately realized phrasing that permeated the entire work. The Valse: Moderato – Tempo di valse was straight out of the Viennese dance school, elegant, filled with subtle nuance and creativity.
Once again the charismatic Stewart showed his appreciation by congratulating practically every member of the string orchestra and received a huge round of applause along with the standing ovation for yet another super musical experience.