New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO) presented concert perfection on April 25, 27, and 28 featuring the works of William Walton and our dear friend Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the hands of one of the most dynamic pianists of our time, Simone Dinnerstein. Where does Philip Glass come in? Patience, Grasshopper!
Music Director Xian Zhang had wanted to set up the first piece for us, but unfortunately the mic was not cooperating at the Sunday, April 28 concert at Mayo Performing Arts in Morristown, and later that was corrected. We had Laurie Schulman’s brilliant concert notes to clue us in to the fact that a young William Walton was full of vim and vigor in his youth, setting Edith Sitwell’s arch poetry to music in this Suite Number Two from “Façade.” Initially incidental music, Walton flexed his young composers’ wit and created this work that includes tongue-firmly-in-cheek renditions that include ‘Fanfare,” “Scottish Rhapsody,” “Country Dance,” and my favorite, “Noche espagnole,” with its lilting “Carmen”-esque evocation of the beauty of Spain. The “Popular Song” movement is a snapshot of a 1920s style song that could have graced the theatre that Walton loved and “Old Sir Faulk” truly rounds out the vignettes with humor.
This was a piquant appetizer for the Mozart Piano Concerto Number 23 in A Major, K. 488. The soloist, Simone Dinnerstein, is a bravura performer and I sat in hyper awareness of the audience around me, most of whom I knew had not yet heard her play. A tribute to Dinnerstein’s mastery is the movement of a woman seated in front of me who, as Dinnerstein progressed through the scintillating melismatic passages, flowing like water in a torrent in Spring, she moved one-by-one, first into one vacant seat next to her, then another, rapt by the motion of the soloist’s hands. There was a meta-silence around the orchestra as the audience enjoyed this fine experience of Mozart’s work in equally expert hands.
Dinnerstein was pensive during the Adagio, as if she was feeling Mozart’s heart when he was writing it, and the sun came out with her beatific Mona Lisa smile during the Allegro assai. After thunderous applause called her back to the stage, she gave us Glass’ Etude Number Six, an early work of his that had a meta-quality whereby we could hear both the individual notes as well as the overtone wall of sound of which they were a part. Dinnerstein gives such life to the phrasing that my companion, who is a huge fan of Glass, thought that she created something beautifully new in the interpretation.
How do you follow a first act like that?—with the familiar and special Mozart Symphony Number 40 in G minor, K. 550. Xian Zhang clued us in that this is one of only two symphonies that Mozart wrote in a minor key and in its time, this was revolutionary. Of course Romantic composers use this phenomenon to say that Mozart was a harbinger of their movement. And we learned that Beethoven lifted the interval of the main theme for a less well-known portion of his Fifth Symphony. This made the music that much more enjoyable, as we listened for the special portions. The Molto allegro contains the familiar theme made more so by Hooked on Classics in 1981. The Andante is graceful and contemplative, achingly gorgeous, followed by the return of the sunshine in the poetic-sounding Menuetto: Allegretto. Ah, the Allegro assai!—again, the familiar sparkling notes that dazzle with energy and motion, like a time-lapse photo of a blooming flower or a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis. We enjoyed an expression of Spring that we will all be talking about for years to come.
There is still a final concert where NJSO pulls out all the stops the weekend of June 6 through 9! Get your tickets now at www.njsymphony.org
put a button on a superb season.