Edward Gardner is the Guest Conductor this weekend with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra as they perform Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain, Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No 1 with Leila Josefowicz on Violin, and Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. The night was filled with passionate music and Gardner took the symphony through the paces of some amazing music.
The program started with Night on Bald Mountain, a bold program opener that closes with a tender sigh. Maestro Gardner shifted and pointed, swayed and pounced his way through the piece trying to capture every nuance. He focused on each member of the orchestra as he built a musically picturesque tableau.
Leila Josefowicz joined the orchestra on stage to delight the audience with Prokofiev's Violin Concert No 1. in D major. This is a demanding piece for both the conductor and the soloist. The opening is tender and melodic. Ms Josefowicz' performance was exceedingly expressive almost demanding the orchestra match her intensity. Maestro Gardner rose to the challenge and the two danced through the opening movement with virtuosic performance. As the cellos get playful, so does the solo violin, Ms Josefowicz matching their style perfectly. As the piece intensifies, Maestro Gardner intently watched both Ms Josefowicz and the orchestra keeping them finely balanced both dynamically and emotionally.
There are moments of frolicking play and lush richness. The performances of orchestra, conductor and soloist showing their skill with Prokofiev's very demanding music. Toward the end the emotions of the music are too much and they slowly melt into a delightfully tender finish.
The second half of the concert was all Beethoven; his strong and passionate seventh symphony. In a quote by composer Louis Spohr who played in the violin section during the premiere performance:
"Beethoven had accustomed himself to indicate expression by all manner of singular body movements. So often as a sforzando occurred, he tore his arms, which he had previously crossed on his breasts, with great vehemence asunder. At piano he crouched down lower and lower as he desired the degree of softness."Obviously Edward Gardner took the Beethoven school of conducting. Watching him throughout the performance it was crystal clear what he was asking of the orchestra, from bombastic punctuations from the timpani, trumpets or horns, to the lilting dance of the flutes, prancing of the clarinets or bassoons and a myriad of emotions from the strings. The symphony is filled with punctuations and sudden dynamic shifts. Maestro Gardner captured each of these and so much more with his constant movement and bodily expressions.
In the end the audience erupted with the applause and cheers. While the Prokofiev swelled the audience's emotions, then allowed them to ease, the Beethoven brought them to the boiling point.