Serenaded By Strauss; entertained by N.A.O. Reply

Review by Judith Caldwell

Last evening, the National Academy Orchestra presented another concert in the Brott Summer Music Festival at St. Christopher`s Anglican Church in Burlington. This concert opened with Beethoven`s Egmont Overture conducted by trainee conductor Brendan Hagan.  The overture tells the story of the struggle for freedom of the Netherlands from the occupation of Spain in the sixteenth century.  This is a typical motif for Beethoven and one that allows his flair for a dramatic opening; reminiscent of his Fifth Symphony.

Artistic director Brott addresses his audience

   This well-known overture is brilliant, exhilarating Beethoven and these young musicians clearly enjoyed playing it. Some members could be observed smiling as they concentrated on the music and Hagan proved to be a very capable conductor.
The soloist for the evening was soprano Leslie Ann Bradley, who sang Four Last Songs of Richard Strauss.  Ms Bradley has a very clear, powerful voice which is well modulated.  She could easily be heard over the orchestra and yet her voice was not harsh.  The song cycle represented the cycle of life from birth to death, with the emphasis on the latter.  This is not a morbid work, but one which looks at death honestly as `vast and silent peace`.  The music is romantic with a peaceful sense of flowing through life.  The final trilling of flutes which signify the liberation of the soul was achingly beautiful.
At intermission snacks were provided by Denninger`s.  LuckyBurlington! The final piece played this evening was Brahms Symphony No.1 which was conducted tag-team fashion by Brendan Hagan for the first movement and Boris Brott for the next three movements.  During Brahms life this Symphony was nicknamed Beethoven`s Tenth and it certainly owes much to his influence.  It is a striding, triumphal piece which is highly melodic and contains one of the most recognised themes in the finale.   Beethoven may have influenced it, but Brahms was the composer. It is a grand, energetic piece which gets better as it progresses, as if he was gaining in confidence.
The National Academy Orchestra has yet to achieve the crispness of an ensemble that has played together for a long time, but they are not far off it, they do possess an energy and enthusiasm which is contagious.
For future concerts in this series check the Brott Music Festival ad in this paper.

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