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Arts and Entertainment Monday, Sep. 16, 2019 2 months ago

Sarasota Orchestra's 'Mélange' launches new season

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Concert showcases new musicians' varied talents.
by: Edward Alley Contributor

The Sarasota Orchestra officially opened the 2019-20 musical season on Sept. 12 with a double-barreled concert of chamber music it chose to call “Musical Mélange.”  Truly a mélange of musical groupings and styles, it also served to introduce musicians new to the Sarasota Orchestra this season.

Highlight of the program, which seemed designed to showcase these new players, was the Beethoven Sextet in E-Flat Major, Op. 81b. This is early Beethoven, written when he was 22 and still somewhat under the influence of his teacher, Josef Haydn, but  his individual style and musical voice came to the surface in almost every bar.    Principal horn Joshua Horne, and new second horn Priscilla Rinehart led the way with high notes and running passages galore that dominated all three movements. The Sarasota String Quartet (Daniel Jordan and Christopher Takeda, violins, new principal violist Rachel Halvorson, and Natalie Helm, cello) provided excellent accompaniment in what could have easily been titled a Concerto for Two Horns.  

The Sarasota Brass Quintet (Anthony Limoncelli, and Daniel Kassteen, trumpets, Laurence Solowey, horn, Brad Williams, trombone and Aaron Tindall, tuba) opened the concert with Francis Ewald’s Brass Quintet No.1, in B-flat minor.  Borrowing themes, harmonies and voicing from fellow countrymen Tchaikovsky and Borodin, Ewald moves his music through moods ranging from dark Russian forebodings to the joy of a triumphant finale.  While it could be the very intimate acoustics of Holley Hall, or just early in the season, the group didn’t display the unity of attack and color needed to form a cohesive sound. Yet it was a  satisfying performance.

Francis Poulenc is in many ways the most “French” of composers, since virtually every measure contains his Gallic humor and unique sound.  His Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano was given a virtuoso performance by principal bassoonist Fernando Traba, new principal oboist Jonathan Gentry, and pianist Jonathan Spivey.  This is a rollicking and scampering piece, with dialogues and tri-alogues going every which way among the three instruments.  These players really gave us every bit of humor and musicality that Poulenc provided, in a performance that was a tour de force of technique, interpretation and musicianship.

Julia Coronelli is the new principal harpist for the Sarasota Orchestra, and she presented her musical credentials with great beauty and precision in the Elegaic Trio by Sir Arnold Bax. She was joined by principal flutist Betsy Traba and violist Michael McClelland.  Together they wove a spell of pastel musical colors and moods that was very reminiscent of Frederic Delius.  It was beautifully played, and the harp virtually glistened throughout.

We were then treated to that Beethoven Sextet, which  really topped off a wonderful early evening of music-making.  These four new players, together with a few more new faces, are certainly a welcome addition to the musical skills and knowledge of this fine orchestra.   With this season’s lineup of outstanding guest conductors and all these new and gifted players, Sarasota is certainly in for a great season of orchestral music.

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