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The New World Symphony's principal guest conductor Alasdair Neale is a superb musician. He commands a dynamic response from the musicians and has the ability to make the most familiar score sound fresh and exciting. Neale also can evoke a full range of dynamics from his ensemble -- from the loudest fortissimo to the softest whisper. He has the ability to make every orchestral detail clear and audible -- often shining new light on instrumental textures. Whether conducting scores by Mozart, Brahms, Elgar, Britten, Ginastera, Copland, or Sierra, Neale brings a strong affinity for the composer's idiom and the ability to make the music come alive. While many conductors emphasize the blatant, strident aspects of The Pines of Rome, Neale found the poetry and instrumental beauty. The opening 'Pines of the Villa Borghese' had dance-like vigor and sparkle. The hushed beauty of 'Pines Near a Catacomb' was striking and powerful -- the deep voiced richness of the lower strings was riveting. The gorgeous wind textures of 'Pines of the Janiculum' (with the birdsong of the nightingale) were played with bright, shining tones. The plaintive sound of the English horn solo was truly beautiful. The concluding 'Pines of the Appian Way' was stirring. With antiphonal brass stationed in the Lincoln Theater balcony, the orchestral climax was glorious.

The Fountains of Rome was no less colorful. Under Neale's sensitive baton, the lush beauty of Respighi's instrumental writing was set forth with subtlety and expressive nuance. The sweet tones of the flutes in the 'Fountain of Valle Giulia at Dawn' seemed to come from an impressionistic sound gauze. The brilliant sound of the horns and trumpets in the 'Triton Fountain At Morn' riveted attention. The shimmering beauty of the 'Villa Medici Fountain At Sunset' was unforgettable. At its conclusion, gossamer strings seemed to soar into infinity with glorious harp glissandos softly fading in the night breeze -- a beautiful sound portrait indeed. The dazzling playing of harpist Yumiko Endo Schlaffer was a standout. The often exquisite orchestral playing was stunning. Conductor and orchestra gave truly great performances of Respighi's music!

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Copyright © 1 November 2003 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA


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