Monterey Symphony — Granados, Brahms & Ravel

Mty Symphony 3-19-16

In addition to this being the year the Monterey Symphony is celebrating its 70th anniversary, one of the program selections on its March concert series, the symphonic poem Dante, by Enrique Granados, served to remind us how 100 years ago the tragedy of World War I impacted not only millions of men in arms, but also prominent members of Europe’s artistic community. It was in 1916 that composer Enrique Granados returning from America lost his life when his ship was torpedoed in the English Channel, Franz Marc, German Expressionist artist and a founder of Der Blaue Reiter Schule, was killed at the Battle of Verdun, and Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein lost his right arm on the Polish front (Ravel later composed his Concerto for the Left Hand for him).

The darkly colored mysterious sounds at the beginning of the Granados work were a surprise to most of us hearing this work for the first time, for we tend to associate a Spanish flavor with most of his compositions. The Dante tone poems, especially its first portion, displayed thick Wagnerian textures with lots of brass and wind instruments reinforcing the lush string writing as it depicted Dante’s descent into the inferno. Conductor Max Bragado-Darman led the Monterey Symphony musicians through the darkly dramatic orchestrations and made this work surprisingly effective.

In the second Granados tone poem we were introduced to the evening’s soloist, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano, who also had a prominent role in the following work, Brahms Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53. Incidentally by this part of the program, members of the Cabrillo Symphonic Choir had filled the rear of the stage, and it looked like a cast of thousands were on board for the rest of the concert. Cano has a rich and powerful voice that was coupled with dramatic gestures seemingly appropriate to the text — actually, we would have to guess at that, for we had no supertitles to guide us to the more subtle meanings of the texts.

The greatest hits of the evening were the Daphnis et Chloé Suites Nos. 1 & 2 after intermission. There are some listeners who feel they have heard this work too often, and there are others who feel they cannot hear it often enough — and I am definitely in the latter group. There was a lot of magic in the performance we heard last night at Sunset Center: gorgeous string playing, lovely effects from the woodwinds, harp and brass, and the magnificent contribution from members of the Cabrillo Symphonic Choir, directed by Cheryl Anderson, Director of Choral Activities at Cabrillo College.


Archived in these categories: 20th Century, Cabrillo College, Monterey Symphony, Orchestral, Romantic Era.
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