Monterey Symphony — “Sound Waves” — Concert No. 2


 Soloist Carol Wincenc 

Last night at Sunset Center in Carmel the Monterey Symphony conducted by Max Bragado-Darman treated us to the second concert in its 2018-2019 season, and it turned out to be a uniquely satisfying experience! There are many compositions that although readily accessible in recordings are rarely heard in live performance. We heard two such works last night — the Le corsaire Overture by Berlioz and Nielsen’s Flute Concerto. In the Berlioz overture that began the concert, the Monterey Symphony was joined by selected members of the Youth Music Monterey County Honors Orchestra, who had the great privilege of playing along with professionals in a large symphony orchestra. Maestro Max graciously asked them to stand and take a bow at the end of the performance. He also called YMMC’s Director, Farkhad Khudyev to the stage and take a bow. This was an experience the young YMMC players won’t ever forget.

Le corsaire, which incidentally has no relation to Lord Byron’s famous poem about Barbary pirates in the western Mediterranean during the 17th and 18th centuries, was, nevertheless, a logical choice considering the Monterey Symphony’s current season theme, “Sound Waves.” This work is a showcase of effective orchestral effects — some stormy and some serene, and the orchestra never sounded better.

The following work, Carl Nielsen’s Flute Concerto, introduced us to the artistry of flutist Carol Wincenc. Incidentally, there has always been some controversy about whether “flutist” or “flautist” is more correct, although for me the question was settled when James Galway said in an interview, “I don’t know about the rest of you flute players, but I don’t play the “flaut.” Carol Wincenc is a charming and exciting virtuoso who gave a brilliant and satisfying performance of Nielsen’s concerto. Especially impressive was her first movement cadenza that demonstrated her control over dynamics and the shaping of phrases. Into this cadenza Nielsen interjected mini solos by percussion, horn, oboe and clarinet, which made it totally unlike what you normally hear in a concerto soloist’s cadenza. After a prolonged ovation, Wincenc returned to the stage to play a lovely brief encore — an arrangement of a song by Fauré.

The windup of the evening, and it really was a windup, was a thrilling performance of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony. The exciting first movement has always suggested to me small ships at sea bravely struggling to survive the wind and waves of a dangerous and turbulent ocean, and so it did on this occasion. The remarkable pizzicato movement made its usual splendid effect as did the Scherzo and final movement. Tchaikovsky certainly knew how to whip up an audience, and whip up us is exactly what he did last night. The audience hooted and hollered bravos and went on their way totally exhilarated.

Well, that is as it should be.


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