Eric Wyrick led the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO) in a program of Boccherini, Respighi, and Vivaldi, oh my! The weekend performances immediately after American Thanksgiving were truly early holiday gifts. I attended the November 29 performance at New Brunswick’s State Theater.
Wyrick is the concertmaster of the NJSO and in the course of his career as a violinist, beginning with lessons at age four and study with the renowned Dorothy DeLay at Juilliard when he was six, he has led several ensembles from the first chair. There is a greater intimacy in the varying sizes of ensembles, and the arrangement of the “voices” of the orchestra takes on a greater meaning in a more highlighted setting that places greater emphasis on the individual soloist within the ensemble, as well as on the ensemble itself. Wyrick’s program showed his selected ensembles at their very best.
Starting with Boccherini’s Symphony Number Six in D minor, “La Casa del diavolo,” we heard the very human voice of the cello and the ensemble had a grace and energy in the Andante sostenuto–Allegro assai that coupled with a sense of motion in the Andantino con moto that suggested a young beauty walking among the remaining sun-dappled leaves of Autumn, only to find herself, in the final Andante sostenuto–Allegro con moto section, being chased by the devil himself, with the feelings of menace, motion, and acceleration and does the maiden escape? I’ll give nothing away. Luigi Boccherini was a cellist and his writing for cello especially was delightful in the hands of Stephen Fang, NJSO’s Associate Principal Cellist.
Ottorino Respighi borrowed from the Baroque era in creating his “Ancient Airs and Dances” suites, including Suite One, performed by a different ensemble configuration. Four movements, each taken from lute literature, amply showed their origins. The first movement is based on a Simone Molinaro balletto from 1600, and the gagliarda is said to be the work of Vincenzo Galilei, whose famous son illuminated our skies. Both ably showed the connection between music and art, and math and science. Respighi was a student of Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov and intersperses modern harmonies that gloriously give the ancient music a fresh feel. Next came the villanella, a most romantic and graceful take on a French form in Italian style. Affect for me was foreshadowing the first movement of Joaquín Rodrigo’s Fantasía para un gentilhombre, also based on the villanella. The final movement, Passo mezzo e mascherada, had a majestic sweep in the open chords that put a button on Act One.
Act Two was devoted entirely to Antonio Vivaldi’s brilliant “Four Seasons.” While this piece becomes familiar to lovers of classical music very quickly, due to its inclusion in so many films, TV shows and more, hearing it performed in person, by a very intimate chamber ensemble, gave a feel of what it must have been like before radio, before mass media, when people gathered in a friend’s home, or a patron’s, to hear the collective genius of composers and musicians. Wyrick’s dynamic control and sense of phrase added nuance and brilliance to a piece we can all hum portions of at will. Spring includes the sense of gamboling play and the rills and trills of water becoming mobile again. Summer was spellbinding, as we watched Wyrick demonstrate the virtuosity that makes him such a popular soloist. There were duets with violin and with Fang’s cello at times, and selections in Autumn and Winter literally brought tears to my eyes at the aching beauty of the passages, something previously reserved for opera alone. In short, I loved it!
What are you waiting for? Let’s Go! NJSO! North to south, NJSO plays a variety of venues, so finish your holiday shopping now at www.njsymphony.org
. I’ll see you at NJPAC!