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Conducting on a less Apollonian level took center stage on 18 July when Donald Runnicles directed the New York based Orchestra of St Luke's in a Sunday matinée concert. While the Scottish-born Runnicles has made some fine recordings of Mozart and Beethoven works, his appearances in Miami with the New World Symphony have been disappointing. Runnicles conducted a heavy handed, ponderous account of Beethoven's Symphony No 7 in A, Op 92. Too often crucial instrumental details were obscured in the mushy orchestral texture. Dynamics were overly loud. There was never a true pianissimo to be heard in this performance. While the St Luke's orchestra is a proficient ensemble, it can not match the brilliance of the conductorless Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Runnicles has made his reputation primarily as an opera conductor. This experience was on display in a lithe, nicely proportioned performance of the Overture to Rossini's L'Italiana in Algeri (with a piquant oboe solo by Melanie Feld). His accompaniment to Joshua Bell's passionate, intense performance of Brahms's Violin Concerto in D, Op 77 was beautifully dovetailed to the violinist's elasticity of phrasing. Bell's singing tone soared in a rhapsodic Adagio. His own daredevil cadenzas were dispensed with virtuosic glee and the finale: Allegro giocoso, ma non troppo vivace was a cascade of brilliant Hungarian-tinged pyrotechnics. Exciting, incendiary Brahms!

Two highly talented Vocal Fellows made a strong impression in a morning chamber music concert on 18 July at Ozawa Hall. The opulent voiced mezzo-soprano Paula Murrihy (from Tralee, Ireland) gave a ravishing performance of the song cycle sicut umbra ... (1970) by Luigi Dallapiccola (1904-1975) in celebration of the composer's centenary. This disturbing, haunting music is hypnotic! Ms Murrihy's fervent singing was beautifully supported by an instrumental ensemble under the sensitive direction of Conducting Fellow Helene Bouchez, a native of Lyon, France. Baritone Charles Temkey (from Patchogue, New York) gave ardent voice to four moody songs by Henri Duparc (1848-1933). Temkey's commanding vocal declamation and warm, high lying, distinctively French baritonal sound recall Francis Poulenc's collaborator and frequent interpreter Pierre Bernac. Casey Jo Ahn Robards provided multicolored pianistic support. (Both Murrihy and Temkey were coached by the distinguished soprano Lucy Shelton.) A glowing performance of Brahms's autumnal Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op 115 spotlighted Timothy Carter, a brilliant wind player and superb musician (from Southwest Harbor, Maine). Carter's gleaming tone, innate musicality, and musical daring produced a striking, memorable interpretation of this late Brahms masterwork. The surging string textures of violinists Anne Donaldson and Gulrukh Abdikadirova, violist Nadia Sirota, and cellist Elise Pittenger complemented Carter's riveting performance. An afternoon concert (on 19 July) in the rustic Chamber Music Hall (one of the original 1940s buildings) featured the New World Symphony's Eva Kozma in the string contingent (along with violist Cindy Mong and cellist Marieve Bock) for a daringly Romantic traversal of Schumann's Piano Quartet in E flat, Op 47. The players were not afraid to play with broad rubato and heart on the sleeve passion. Pianist Berenika Zakrzewski approached the music with glittering, almost Chopinesque bravura. Mong's viola solo in the Andante cantabile had dark hued tonal resonance and heartfelt intensity of utterance. A gripping interpretation! Oboist Stefan Farkas gave a spacious, characterful performance of Schumann's lyrical Three Romances, Op 94. Oboist Nicholas Masterson, bassoonist Stevi Caufield, and pianist Ji-Hye Chang teamed up for a lively version of Poulenc's saucy, charming Trio of 1926.

Ozawa Hall, Tanglewood
Ozawa Hall, Tanglewood

Tanglewood is a magical place to make music. The mature artistry of Masur and Fruhbeck de Burgos, the impulsive excitement of Midori, and the brilliant gifts of the student players all shone brightly in this memorable space, surrounded by nature. Bryn Terfel's Hans Sachs held promise of great things to come. A wonderful meeting of artistry and ambience!

Copyright © 30 July 2004 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA




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