Review by Danny Gaisin
The first visual change that newly appointed HPO conductor has made was in the orchestral layout. About eight years ago, debate within the concert community took place over the concept of having the violins situated to the left of the podium, or a return to the pre-20th century notion favored by Tchaikovsky; Mahler and even Beethoven; that the first and second sections should be at opposing sides; the OSM’s Nagano; London’s Haitink and Levine of the Boston Symphony prefer splitting: – Detroit’s Slatkin takes an opposing opinion. Maestra Gemma New also has repositioned the celli and violas plus moving the basses next to percussion.
The opening work was Von Weber’s Euranthe overture which was presented in a rousing yet tender reading. While the opera is rarely performed, the overture is a popular favorite given its iterations of the various themes incorporated in the libretto and the chromaticism depictions. The major work of pre-interval was Schumann’s fourth symphony. The piece’s four movements are described in High German so for the uninitiated: – ‘ziemlich’ is moderate; and ’lebhaft’ means slow tempo’ed. New and the orchestra fluidly segued from movement to movement. The overall rendering was lively yet exhibited an amazing delicacy from the first violins, especially in the opening themes. The orchestra displayed an unusual & novel verve that bordered on being almost lyrical. There is obviously a cohesion between podium and musicians. New’s erudite introductory comments only obliquely referred to Clara’s amoral libido, rather emphasizing Schumann’s intense love for his wife and the astonishing compositional output that was a result of his ardor.
The guest soloist was Stewart Goodyear. This is the fourth time I’ve critiqued the piano magic of Goodyear…the previous being his De Falla ‘Garden of Spain’ with the HPO five years ago (O.A.R. Nov. 6/2011). Pianist’s approaches range from the schmaltz (Liberace) to the technocrat (Silverman). Goodyear is a balanced performer; similar to Kuerti. His interpretation was pensive yet heavily nuanced with individualistic emphases…a definitive ‘maestoso’. The extended pauses during the adagio 2nd contributed a dramatic effect and mood accent. The familiar motif near the end of the rondo was a delicately performed as a French pastry. The Hamilton Philharmonic was certainly up to the standard a talent like Goodyear deserves.
This was the first concert of the 2016/17 season; the 1st (non-auditioning) under New; and thus had a plethora of VIP guests. It also marked the first time this scribe attended a pre-concert discourse.
Traditionally, critics never read other reviews; peruse the concert notes or attend any lecture event that might later be considered plagiarism. However; the opportunity to be up close & personal with New; Goodyear and composer Abigail Richardson-Schulte was too big a prospect to forego. All three were knowledgeable; erudite and completely without a ‘like’; “uum” or ‘you know’ interspersed after every three or four words. Obviously this trio are NOT athletes being interviewed! The next HPO concert is October 15th.