Review by Danny Gaisin
To paraphrase a real estate credo, ‘selection, selection, selection’ can be a paramount vitality for a concert’s success. Artistic director Charles Demuynck chose two famous Serenades for the opening of the OCO’s 31st season. To perform Dvořák’s opus 44 for wind, the maestro augmented ‘Winds’ with bass; cello and French horn. We’re aware that the saxophone is considered a “wind” instrument; but 2 strings & a brass??? Luckily he’s at the podium so he’s in charge!
This particular piece, just under 30 minutes long, is comprised of four movements, with a somewhat dour introduction that sets the theme. Keyed in D-minor the piece utilizes alternating riffs that require a valiant effort by the clarinets, followed closely by the oboes. The familiar 2nd movement has some delightful glissandos which unless performed faultlessly, can defeat an arrangement. The OCO aced it. This writer has always felt that the andante 3rd evokes the lyric Russians such as Rimsky-Korsakov; Borodin and Rachmaninoff. I’m not erudite enough to positively decide who emulated (or plagiarized) whom. The finale reprises the leitmotifs of the previous sections, especially the ‘marcia’ (march) of the opening movement. The acoustical warmth of Central Baptist certainly enhanced the chamber format of this particular composition.
Tchaikovsky’s celebrated Serenade for Strings is keyed in C major and that is not the only difference between this work and the pre-interval Dvořák. Humorously introduced by Demuynck referring to its adoption by the world of ballet, this composition has so many different motives, tempi and challenges that each section has its performing & listening aficionados. The deliberate pauses were an unusual emphasis for this particular orchestra. The arrangement stressed the point & counterpoint refrain, with reprise equally at the forefront. The finale has a plethora of cadences including an andante with its pizzicato debate. Overall, there is an impression of a rondo that was more than subtly explored by Demuynck and his musicians.
Interesting sidebar – there was nary a single applause between movements…bravo – Audience!
For critics, especially after a half-century of attending myriad concerts, there is a difficulty in commenting, due to the familiarity with just about every piece in the repertoire and awareness of the different arrangements, therein. I do try to judge each representation on its own merits…occasionally I’m afraid I’m not always successful. So, if your own opinion differs, don’t hesitate to let us hear your own assessment. My psyche can handle criticism as much as I can dish it out!