Review by Danny Gaisin, Apr. 28, ‘19
Under the vision of maestra Gemma New , executive director Diana Weir and the HPO Board, the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra has evolved into something far more eclectic and audience attractive than we saw under previous administrations. This is obvious from the increase of ‘sold out’ concert situations and also from the noticeable atmosphere emanating from the musicians themselves. Last evening’s event under guest conductor Nathan Brock featured the HPO’s concertmaster Stephen Sitarski performing the violin concerto No. 2 by Sergei Prokofiev. This piece is far less known than the composer’s ‘Peter & the Wolf’ or his opera ‘Alexander Nevsky.
Rationale, the work is rather formulaic and somewhat stuffy, but is an impressive opportunity for solo display of dexterity and technique. Sitarski seemed totally in charge not only of his solo moments, but seemed to be telegraphing instructions to the podium rather than the usual reverse. The concerto makes an unusually high demand on a violinist’s ‘this little piggy stayed home’ finger (or the nose-picker digit!) given the numerous pizzicato cadenzas. Sitarski, as expected aced his execution. Still, methinks this is NOT one of those ‘must own’ pieces.
The brief opening work was Ravel’s Tombeau de Couperin. Comparatively modern (1919), the title is a French term for a commemoration and each of the four (out of six) selections are tributes to different slain WWI soldiers. The movements are also designated in French. Forlane is a 6/4 or 6/8 lively dance tempo; Rigaudon is a Venetian dance tempo of 4/4 time. (Definitions; courtesy of my Deems Taylor reference bible!). The minuet 3rd movement is emphasized by the melodious harp and once again, Erica Goodman shone!
Post interval, Béla Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances. Each of the six short musical descriptives has its own delightful message. Last night’s bestowing of applause after each segment was worthy of a ‘Wheel of Fortune’ audience member! Read up on cultural customs, Hamilton.
Then, Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite. The origin is a one Act comedic ballet about boy loves girl (s); she (they) don’t respond and give him the figurative finger. He pretend to die and Doctor Daddy revives him before a repenting posse of girls…all end well! So, the HPO delivered the eight musical vignettes while eleven young* Hamilton Academy of Performing Arts dancers portrayed Pulcinella, Pimpenella etc. Perfectly executed and this time deserving of applause after each duet, solo or corps de ballet segment. Their synchronization and faultless onpointe pas were enchanting. (* a little birdie told me the age spread, and that some of the dancers had begun their studies before pre-school age!) The focus and discipline they already possess will stand them all in great stead whatever future field to which they commit.
A coincidental BTW: – Bartok’s birthday is March 25th; The Prokofiev’s British inaugural performance was on March 25th; This scribe’s birthday is March 25th!