Maestro Daniel Stewart unveiled a tour de force of virtuosity and artistry supported by the ever more distinguished Santa Cruz Symphony. Sunday’s concert at the Mello Center opened with Mozart’s delightful Overture to The Marriage of Figaro (1786), with the orchestra bringing joy and spontaneity to each phrase. This work was the first of two works by Mozart, both impeccably performed and thoroughly enjoyed by all!
The World Premiere of Maestro Stewart’s Social Media (2017) was a musical kaleidoscope that journeyed through a calculated, complex world of emotions and expression. The compositional form was splendidly flexible and combined state of the art Midi electronic sound with an ever present orchestral blend of strings, percussion, winds and brass. From a fast and furious opening to restrained, impressionistic moments touched by personal comments, one could conjure a variety of conclusions. Midi electronic rhythmic groupings opened the work and in timely fashion modulated into moments of well orchestrated musical structures. Social Media is a full-toned musical experience with big dynamics. Razor-sharp rhythmic drive emphasizes the concept that contemporary scores are coded documents that must be deep analyzed in order to decode their messages. The calm mid section, predominately orchestral employing strings and clarinet arpeggios allowed for a moment of restfulness, reflection and demonstrated the Maestro’s compositional creativity. Once again the rhythmic pulse entered and heightened the texture leading into a recapitulation. Judging by the audience reaction, Social Media earned a successful World Premiere.
Giovanni Bottesini’s Bass Concerto No. 2 is an awesome work composed for the bass and performed with superb virtuosity and artistry by the highly talented 20 year old William Langlie-Miletich. This young artist performed in all respects far beyond his years with an astonishing musical mastery. What amazed the audience was his ability to create moments that made one look to make sure he didn’t somehow magically switch his wonderful double bass for a cello! He performed with an innate feeling for graceful, lyrical phrasing, intensity and spiritual veracity! He also was able to add iridescent color via the instrument’s upper register. In the two splendid cadenzas, he explored and exhausted all possibilities one could imagine on the double bass. After the first movement he received a rousing round of applause. In the second movement the bass assumed the role of a fine baritone in an operatic role conjuring up a compelling and lamenting quality of sound. The double bass pizzicato supported the melodic line with perfection. The third movement offered a brilliant display and virtuosity well supported by the orchestra.
As an added musical treat, Langlie-Miletich performed an original composition — modern jazz in a genre that was nothing short of brilliant. He explored the uncharted musical depths of the double bass. Gentle percussive effects by tapping on the string board offered an impressive rhythmic accompaniment. It’s no wonder he has performed around the world and most certainly this is only the tip of the iceberg! Bravo!
Lou Harrison’s Suite from Marriage at The Eiffel Tower (1961) was to a degree reminiscent of a delightful piano loop and about as 180 degrees opposite of Lou’s “Gamelan” compositions. The work’s seven sections began with an almost Broadway “Pop” twist coupled with a hint of South American color. The sections ran the wonderful gamut of Harrison’s creativity, lush contrast, light and airy orchestration, a sophisticated march-like trumpet-percussion duet, a slow salon flavored jazz-like solo and finally a well orchestrated summing up of strings, winds, brass and percussion demonstrating Lou’s fantastic compositional prowess.
Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola K 364 (1779) featured the distinguished In Sun Jang on violin and Maestro Danny Stewart on viola. Elegantly attired in a black concert dress, In Sun performed glorious arches of phrasing that coupled with the viola counterpart creating lush string textures. Unlike a pianist conducting from the piano facing the orchestra, Maestro Stewart had the challenge of facing the audience and giving orchestra directions, bow in hand whenever possible. Nonetheless, the result was impeccable. The second slow Andante stirred a haunting quality against the steady pulse of the cellos and basses.
Their playing represented the ne plus ultra of the classical style. In Sun’s vivid detail and clear understanding not only put every note in place, but invested it with profound feeling. The balance between soloists and orchestra was flawless.
The cascades of notes glided with elegance and phrasings were exquisitely tapered with no hint of effort. This was a wonderful concert experienced by all and a grand standing ovation was certainly in order!