The Play's the Thing and Play They Did - Andrew Grams with the Colorado Symphony Did Mendelssohn Right
Andrew Grams led the Colorado Symphony tonight through a delightful rendition of Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream complete with fairy chorus (Colorado Children's Chorale) and actors to set the scene. The evening was more than just classical music played extremely well; it was also a delightful chance to hear some very familiar music in a very new way.
The program started off with the Prelude and "Good Friday Spell" from Wagner's Parcifal. From the opening moment as the audience waited to hear the first note, until the end of the opening musical phrase, Andrew Grams commanded complete attention from everyone in the hall. The music began quietly, and then unfolded much like the dawning of a new day. The orchestral colors shifted and swayed allowing the audience to catch only glimpses until something new caught our attention. The shadings of the music by the Colorado Symphony was simply Immaculate. Wagner's Prelude has several breaks in the music, where the music crests up to a point then stops, only to begin again as if at the beginning. Grams utilized these breaks to build the tension as Wagner intended. As the piece begins to take shape we get a glorious brass choir with each note shaped to heighten the emotional impact.
The first half of the concert was all about shadings. The "Good Friday Spell" starts bold, winds its way into a lovely oboe solo by Peter Cooper accompanied by the full orchestra, to a whisper of the clarinet by Bil Jackson, to the point it was impossible to tell when Bil's playing stopped. Boettcher concert hall seemed to breath the music in and then delightfully let it surround us. This was not a bombastic concert opening, but one filled with refined moments in music.
The second half of the concert was Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream. The staging was focused on the orchestra, but also included the Colorado Children's Chorale, a pair of Sopranos singing the parts of fairies and a couple of actors reading some of the relevant lines from the play. Mendelssohn wrote the music to be incidental music for the play, much like film music is today. However, tonight the music was primary and the words were just added color.
Shelly Gaza and Leigh Miller provided the voices of the incidental lines from Shakespeare. Playing a variety of roles from the play, these actors gave new dimension to the music, fleshing out the meaning behind some of the musical elements. After their opening dialog it was impossible to hear the orchestra play and not imagine fairies peering out from behind the various music stands. The only disappointment is there was no "Bottom" portrayed. His roles as the Ass for whom Titania falls in love is one of the most remarkable, identifiable elements in the music --Mendelssohn actually gets a donkey's braying to sound lovely.
Katherine Whyte and Michelle Areyzaga were joined by the Colorado Children's Chorale for a couple of the fairy songs. The voices of the children brought a delightful playfulness to the music (as if it didn't have enough of that already), while the two sopranos glided over top like fairies dancing in the moonlight.
From the opening four chords, which are pure joy, to the finale four chords at the end of Puck's speech, Andrew Grams overtly demands every little nuance one could imagine in the music. The Colorado Symphony musicians responded with impeccable precision. If Andrew squatted down to bring the orchestra to new lows, or raised a triumphant fist to bring in the heroic horns, the musicians captured the sentiment in sound. As Andrew turned to the brass to sculpt a fanfare then bounce with the low strings to add emphasis to their pizzicato, each section played their part in creating a highly dramatic evening. For every note there was something Maestro Grams was doing on the podium with the musicians responding to ensure the night was magical.
The night was filled with subtle shading from start to finish. Andrew Grams and the Colorado Symphony played Wagner beautifully capturing soupçon of flavor. Then, changing the tone of the evening to the playful Mendelssohn, they captured every possible form of laughter an orchestra can make and then some. Truly a delightful evening. Fortunately, they will be playing again tomorrow night!
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM
SAT 7:30PM - Boettcher Concert Hall
Andrew Grams, conductor
Colorado Children’s Chorale
Katherine Whyte, soprano
Michelle Areyzaga, soprano
Shelly Gaza, actor
Leigh Miller, actor
WAGNER / Prelude to Parsifal
WAGNER / “Good Friday Spell” from Parsifal
MENDELSSOHN / A Midsummer Night’s Dream