“Gemma New’s HPO aces Brahms”

Review by Danny Gaisin
Saturday’s Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra’s opening 2018-’19 season epitomizes the old “A-Team” slogan about a plan coming together. The works performed; the guest soloist and the published list for the rest of the season were, & are – terrific.
The opening work was Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3; (of four). It initiates the opera Fidelio in which the main character uses the title as her pseudonym in order to become a prison guard and thus help her beloved escape. Maestra New’s interpretation had a slow and understated introduction so dramatic as to have me close my eyes to thus enhance the aural drama being experienced.

Crozman & New’s HPO interpreting Elgar’s cello concerto

 To intensify the impact, New had the solo trumpet perform un-mic’ed from within the audience. This was definitely a most creative and innovative rendition.
The first major work was Edward Elgar’s E-minor cello concerto. For those who may lack familiarity with an orchestra’s string section; a cello may be considered as a viola on steroids, or perhaps a bulimic double bass. Reality-wise it’s the instrument tuned an octave below the viola and played while seated with the cello supported by its end-pin, a stiletto heel at the bottom.( * except in period units). The young guest soloist
Cameron Crozman is a total virtuoso and maven of his Stradivarius. Although still in his twenties, his musical résumé boggles the mind. His rendering of the concerto with its familiar opening theme made famous by a TV mini series, immediately displayed an interest in expressing all of the composer’s nuances. Crozman forgoes all the drama or histrionics ofttimes utilized by soloists. His faultless technique is expressed through his obvious focus on exploring the possible concepts or musical expressions that Elgar perhaps sought. The sold-out HPO audience was thunderous in expressing its appreciation.
Post interval, New and the orchestra undertook Johannes Brahms Symphony no. 1 (of 4). The work’s incipit notes are metronomic and Jean Normand Iadeluca’s timpani seemed as though the podium became briefly redundant. The composition’s challenges and intricacies were no hurdle for the horn section during the allegro movement, nor for concertmaster
Stephen Sitarski’s brief solo riffs. The allegretto 3rd is sub-titled ‘e grazioso’ which this scribe interprets as supple or sylph-like. Hopefully, Ms. New has a deeper understanding of the term than yours truly!
The final movement is an apogee demand on both orchestra and conductor. With four distinct tempi and no segue connect; its metaphorically more soccer than long-distance running. Confession: I did hum the familiar theme that constitutes part of the finale. The entire work was aced. This is decidedly one cohesive unit. If the ensemble can handle this particular piece successfully, it can manage almost all of the repertoire and thus should be considered as to be an “A-Team”.

Editorial comment: – Re the list for the season as mentioned above. Having attended and critiqued classical concerts since the early 1960’s, I must admit to naturally being somewhat jaded. Been there; seen or heard that. Yet the H.P.O.’s upcoming events reads like a menu of pure chocolate to someone with a super sweet taste. Hockey; Beatles; Bach; Debussy; Broadway; Mozart; Ravel & Stravinsky together; and Mahler’s inspiring 5th symphony. Plus, some fun stuff with string quartets; Brass quintets; Halloween and even something Yiddish…MY kind of a season.
Our city’s flagship orchestra is top shelf. Open entreaty to
Wayne, Anna, Gemma & Diana…you know who you are. Please; this humble scribe and most of my readers would love the opportunity to own and enjoy some Hamilton Philharmonic CD’s. Do consider it.