Filed under: Reviews | Tags: Aaron Wille, Adam Flatt, Brooke Hengst, Catherine Ricca, Cheryl Gooden, Daniel Kellogg, David Wallace, Denver Philharmonic Orchestra, Dr. Horst Buchholz, Frank Odon, John Knowles Paine, Kathy Thayer, Leonard Bernstein, Loren Meaux, Manny Araujo, Shaun Burley, von Weber
I know that I have often said that the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Adam Flatt just keeps getting better and better. But in the last year since Maestro Flatt has been at the controls, this truly is the case. While the DPO was looking for a new director, they did go through a period of a sort of malaise, which is not uncommon when looking for some positive direction. Previously, the DPO had made remarkable progress under the conductorship of Dr. Horst Buchholz. I assure you they have found their new direction now. Friday night, September 30, the improvement of the violin section was absolutely startling. Yes, there were a few funny spots, but they are not worth dwelling on. There was also a noticeable change in their attitude. One could sense that they were really working at making music. And I point out that the rest of the orchestra, low strings, woodwinds and brass, have always been quite good.
They opened their program Friday evening with Carl Maria von Weber’s Overture to Oberon. When is the last time you heard a live performance of this work? Maestro Flatt has brought with him not only consummate ability to communicate his sense of excitement and passion to the orchestra, but imaginative programming as well.
Von Weber was a composer, conductor, novelist, and essayist, and is known for being one of the leading exponents of early German Romanticism. He wrote some wonderful music for woodwinds: a terrific bassoon concerto, two concertos for clarinet, a quintet for clarinet and string quartet, plus a very good piano sonata. It is a shame that some of his works are not performed more often. The opera, Oberon, was received by the English with great enthusiasm, in spite of the fact that the libretto, which was taken from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, is enormously complicated. The music, however, is absolutely beautiful and extremely well written. It opens with a marvelous horn solo – from principal horn, David Wallace – depicting the magic horn of Puck. If I were going to be super picky, I would say that the strings got off to a slightly shaky start as far as tune is concerned, but I emphasize that for the remainder of the concert, they were extremely good and vastly improved. The orchestra also showed a newfound precision in their entrances; they were crisp and clean. There was some beautiful clarinet work in this overture from Shaun Burley, who always seems to excel. In addition to the woodwinds, the low strings were excellent.
Following the von Weber, came a wonderful work by Daniel Kellogg, entitled Pyramus and Thisbe. I will quote directly from the program notes which were written by Daniel Kellogg:
“Pyramus and Thisbe is a theatrical spectacle with wild, overwrought death scenes, waves of shimmering moonlight, fierce lion roars from the brass section, riotous music from the strings, overjoyed fanfares, sappy romantic tunes, funeral music, and a kazoo solo. It is a tragedy of the most of fascicle [a discrete section of a book or published separately] sort that parallels the story of Romeo and Juliet. Taken from act five of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Tony award-winning writer Mark O’Donnell has reworked this scene for one brilliant ham who will play the part of narrator, wall, lion, moon, and art lovers Pyramus and Thisbe.”
It seems a little unlikely, but in case any of you readers don’t know who Daniel Kellogg is, I will enclose some bio information from his website:
“Daniel Kellogg, barely out of his 20s, is one of the most exciting composers around – technically assured, fascinated by unusual sonic textures, unfailingly easy to listen to, yet far from simplistic.” wrote the Washington Post. After being chosen as Young Concert Artists Composer-in-Residence in 2002, Daniel Kellogg has become one of the nation’s most prominent young composers. Dr. Kellogg, Assistant Professor of Composition at the University of Colorado, had recent premieres with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, the San Diego Symphony, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, the Takács Quartet with the University of Colorado Wind Symphony, and the Aspen Chamber Orchestra, and upcoming premieres with the South Dakota Symphony, the United States Air Force Academy Band, the Takács Quartet, and the choirs of Yale University. Most recently, the National Symphony Orchestra took his piece, Western Skies, on a tour of Asia. Honors include a Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, six ASCAP Young Composer Awards, the BMI William Schuman Prize, and the ASCAP Rudolf Nissim Award. His works have been performed at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall, the Kimmel Center, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, China’s National Centre for the Performing Arts, and broadcast on NPR’s “Performance Today” and “St. Paul Sundays” among others. A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, Dr. Kellogg earned a Masters of Music and a Doctor of Musical Arts from the Yale School of Music. His teachers include Don Freund, Ned Rorem, Jennifer Higdon, Joseph Schwantner, Ezra Laderman, and Martin Bresnick. He has served as composer-in-residence for the South Dakota Symphony, Young Concert Artists, the Green Bay Symphony, and the University of Connecticut. The Washington Post counted his recent CD Beginnings, recorded by eighth blackbird, among the top five classical discs of 2004. He resides in Colorado with his wife, concert pianist Hsing-ay Hsu, and daughter Kaela. He has served on the faculty of CU since 2005.”
This was a remarkable, lighthearted, narrated work of satire and farce, but the music was incredibly good. I will interrupt myself long enough to explain that to write a successful, humorous piece of music is, in many ways, more difficult than just writing a piece of music. One has to have tremendous skill in order to convey the humor to those who hear the piece. In this instance, the narration, of course, conveyed much of the humor and satire, but the music is so skilled in its composition, that it never intrudes and only highlights. The orchestration (that is the choice of instruments for different themes and effects) demonstrated Dr. Kellogg’s deftness and his understanding of an orchestra. If this work is repeated again in Denver by some other orchestra, make a point to go to the performance. It was absolutely delightful in every way, and the Denver Phil was superb. In addition, the narrator, Denver’s own Frank Oden, was superb as well. The following is from Frank Oden’s website:
“Frank Oden writes and performs lyrical concert programs merging original poetry, humor, education and theatrical production values with live symphonic performance. He began creating this unique form in response to commissions from the Colorado Symphony Orchestra for a series of Halloween concerts, which resulted in The Haunted Symphony, The House of Halloween, and Eerie Lake. Based on the popularity of these works, Oden next created a full-length program of original western poetry, Cowboy Jamboree, which has been an audience favorite with orchestras across the US. His latest work, Song of the Earth, was commissioned by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic and received its world premiere in October 2008. Mr. Oden’s perfectly inept “mucisological” expert, Dr. Hayward Benson from What is Music? often appears with orchestras in various contexts by popular demand, and Oden was also invited by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra to create a comical look at Mozart’s life and works in Happy Birthday, Wolfgang. For Marin Alsop’s tribute to Leonard Bernstein, Mr. Oden wrote and performed a critically acclaimed beat poetry version of Romeo and Juliet for Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. He also appears regularly with symphony orchestras to perform traditional narrations, as well as his own lyrical version of Peter and the Wolf and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
A long-term resident of Denver, Colorado, Oden is also one of the most recognizable and award-winning character actors in the mile-high city, having worked in nearly every theater and appeared in numerous television commercials and film productions. He is also a theatrical playwright and producer.”
I honestly don’t know who was responsible for inviting Frank Oden to narrate Daniel Kellogg’s work. It may well have been Daniel Kellogg, or Maestro Adam Flatt. But I assure you that the choice was absolutely perfect. Frank Oden, the writer, Mark O’Donnell, and Daniel Kellogg, complemented each other and the idea of the piece extremely well. It also seemed as if the Denver Phil had found a new kind spirit. I have never heard them perform in this way before and it was truly exciting. There was some wonderful solo work on violin from Kathy Thayer, the Concertmaster, and some equally fine work from Aaron Wille, piccolo. Brooke Hengst, playing E flat clarinet, was also superb.
And after the intermission, the Denver Phil performed the Overture to As You Like It by the American composer John Knowles Paine (1839 – 1906). Paine, who was educated musically in Germany, is beginning to emerge as a very important American composer. He single-handedly developed the music department at Harvard University, which, in many ways, became a model for universities across the country. He also had strong influence in the formation of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. As a composer he is more easily associated, I think, with Mendelssohn, with a smattering of Schumann perhaps, and though his compositions are excellent, health problems reduced his output and viability as a composer.
As the program notes for Friday’s performance state, Paine’s Overture to As You Like It, was not composed to accompany Shakespearean productions, but rather, to share the same purpose as Mendelssohn’s a Midsummer Night’s Dream: to induce the spirit of the play itself into music. The opening of this piece was very much like a barcarole, that is to say, in 6/8 meter, with a gentle flowing motion. The orchestra sounded absolutely superb in this work, again with some very fine clarinet playing by Shaun Burley and some equally fine work on oboe by Loren Meaux. Maestro Adam Flatt has truly shown the orchestra how to play with a new sensitivity that I have not heard before. What a change this has been!
The last work on the program was Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. As all of the previous pieces on this evening’s program generally follow the story of Romeo and Juliet, it is common knowledge that West Side Story follows that theme as well. The program notes state that this work was responsible for bringing the idea of social consciousness to the American musical. That may well be, but I can tell you that to my way of thinking, one of the most important aspects of this piece is that Leonard Bernstein was an amazingly gifted musician in many, many ways. Some of you younger readers may not be old enough to realize he was not only an incredible composer, but a conductor of worldwide reputation, a wonderful pianist, and a dedicated music educator. I think that his works that deal with the American musical theater are exceptional for one more reason: he had the musical aesthetic and skill to write music which was sung rather than shouted, as is my main criticism of contemporary musical theater.
I am confident that everyone who reads this article knows West Side Story. It is full of energy and drive and wonderful lyricism, sometimes in fast alternation. I don’t think I have ever seen the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra play with such energy before, and it is clear that Adam Flatt has no issues with communicating everything that is necessary to the orchestra. You may well say, “Yes, but that’s what conductors do,” but I would point out that some conductors do it much better than others. In that regard, and in every other regard, Adam Flatt excels. Manny Araujo, trumpet, Cheryl Gooden, flute, Catherine Ricca, flute, and the entire percussion section were excellent. Before the orchestra began to play, Mr. Flatt called Frank Oden to the podium, where Oden recited his poetic version of how Romeo and Juliet became West Side Story. This was originally written at the behest of Marin Alsop for her tribute to Leonard Bernstein. The performance of this was a wonderful amalgam of an excellent conductor, a very skilled author/writer, and a very good community orchestra which simply gets better and better.
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: Adam Flatt, Bach, Bryan Scafuri, George Gershwin, Justin Morgan, Kathy Thayer, Kim Brody, Manny Araujo, Thomas Canning, William Schumann
Last evening, Friday, May 6, the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra presented its last performance of the season, conducted, of course, by Maestro Adam Flatt, and featuring the DPO’s oboist, Kim Brody, playing Johann Sebastian Bach’s rare Concerto for Oboe d’Amore in A Major, BWV 1055. This was the first season for Maestro Adam Flatt, who took over the DPO after a fairly lengthy period of searching. There is no question that the DPO made a very wise choice when they offered him the position. He has conducted all over the United States and in Europe, and we inDenver are very fortunate that he is also the Principal Conductor of the Colorado Ballet, as well as Principal Conductor of the Emerald City Opera in Steamboat Springs. And, in an article published in the Tuscaloosa News on April 21, it was announced that Maestro Flatt is now the conductor of the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra. But do not fear, for he is still going to maintain his conducting appointments here in Colorado and in Oregon. This should not be a surprise to anyone who has heard the DPO, the Colorado Ballet, or any of the operas that he has conducted. He has the genuine artistic ability to make every orchestra he conducts sound better than they have previously.
Maestro Flatt opened the program with New England Triptych by American composer William Schuman. William Schuman (1910 to 1992) is an American composer who, unfortunately, is being forgotten by many orchestras and musicians. At one time in the ‘30s and ‘40s particularly, his third Symphony, for example, was as well known as those of Howard Hanson and Aaron Copland. It may be because he used American themes, historic as well as musical, for the subjects of his compositions, and many critics feel that that is a little déclassé. New England Triptych is based on hymn tunes written by William Billings (1746 to 1800), however, when I say “based on,” I do not neccessarily mean literally copied or used for a musical variation. Schumann tried to create the mood established by Billings in his hymns. Each movement of this triptych involves one particular hymn. The first is entitled Be Glad Then, America, and was given a wonderful forward movement by Maestro Flatt and the orchestra. There was also, aside from the reference to Billings’ hymn, a fugue in the middle section. The orchestra did quite well with this piece which opened with a very soft timpani solo performed by Steve Bulota. The second movement of this triptych is entitled When Jesus Wept, which begins with an almost exact quote of the Billings hymn, but then, through what seemed to me to be melodic extensions, becomes a very sad and lyrical variation. The third movement of the triptych is entitled Chester, which I’m sure many people in the audience recognized, for it has been used by other American composers, and was a well-known marching hymn used by the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. The DPO performed this entire work as though they felt a real kinship with it. They never played in a bombastic way even in the march, and seemed constantly aware that this triptych was based on hymns. Of course, that is the kind of expression that they have become accustomed to producing under the leadership of Adam Flatt.
Next on the program was J.S. Bach’s Oboe Concerto, BWV 1055, performed by Ms. Kim Brody on the oboe d’amore. I’m sure that all of you are aware that the oboe is a double reed instrument that is capable of some real volume, and has a particular sound that can cut through an orchestra quite well. The oboe d’amore is a larger oboe with a pear-shaped bell which softens the instrument. Most musicologists agree that it was developed probably around 1720, but since then, as orchestras became larger and instruments became stronger, the oboe d’amore fell out of use, to be replaced by the standard oboe. And indeed, Friday night it was most noticeable, because Ms. Brody easily produced a very warm sound on the instrument, without the usual bite (and I do not say that disparagingly) of a regular oboe.
The full title of the oboe concerto that Ms. Brody so beautifully performed Friday night is Harpsichord Concerto Nr. 4 in A Major (or for oboe d’amore) BWV 1055. It was written in 1738 and 1739. Bach was in the habit of rearranging his harpsichord concertos for other instruments, and the reason for this is still, unfortunately, unclear. It is also unfortunate that the original harpsichord version of this concerto is lost, and some scholars believe that it was the last harpsichord concerto to have been arranged for another instrument. This is an absolutely marvelous piece that still shows some harpsichord influence in its textures. Ms. Brody and Maestro Flatt gave the first movement a wonderful forward momentum with the rhythmic emphasis that is so necessary and typical in the works of J.S. Bach. The incredible tone that she produced certainly matched the small string orchestra that was performing with her. And, I might add, that the orchestra seemed to be completely empathetic with her musicality and style of performing this piece. Did I point out that she is also a member of the DPO? They are very fortunate to have her as a member of the orchestra. The second movement of this A major concerto seems to me to “flirt” with the key of F sharp minor (which, of course, is related to A Major) and there were instances where I thought I was listening to a chaconne. But, keep in mind, that this is the first time I have ever heard this concerto, so if I am incorrect about this, my apologies go to Ms. Brody and to Mr. Bach. This movement, in particular, seems to have some of the most seamless interaction between soloist and ensemble that I’ve heard for quite a while. It was a beautiful performance. The last movement is a typical Bach fast movement: exuberant, and yet, full of charm. Again, Kim Brody excelled. She is a totally reliable musician who knows clearly what she is doing in every single measure. There was no hint of uncertainly anywhere in her playing. But then, why should there be? She is an enormously experienced performer who has played with orchestras all over the country. It was a real treat to hear a concerto that is so very seldom performed.
Thomas Canning (1911 to 1989) is an obscure American composer who was a hymnist and composer. His work, Fantasy on a Hymn Tune by Justin Morgan, was performed after the Bach Friday night. Mr. Canning was educated at Oberlin College and the Eastman School of Music. He studied with the Norman Lockwood and Howard Hanson, both of whom are well-known American composers. Canning was also a member of the Hymn Society of America. Justin Morgan, whose hymn tune Canning uses in this fantasy was also a hymnist, but today he is probably best known for breeding the Morgan horse.
This work by Canning is the first composition that I have ever heard of his. It was very calm in mood and used typical harmonies that one hears from Aaron Copland, Howard Hanson and Norman Lockwood. It struck me as being a rather bland piece, and I wondered just where it was headed next. It seemed to revolve around beautiful harmonies, and of course, one could hear the melody and surmise that it was the melody used originally by Justin Morgan. However, this did not dissuade me from being a little indifferent to it. I must say, however, that the performance of this piece was very lush, and again, the orchestra seemed to present this in a very personal way, as if they were feeling the music themselves. There were two fine solos, violin and cello, performed Friday night by Kathy Thayer, who is the concertmaster of the DPO, and Bryan Scafuri, who is the principal cellist.
The DPO performed George Gershwin’s delightful and familiar tone poem, American in Paris, as the last piece on the program. I strongly believe that Gershwin is still an underrated composer. Part of this may be due to the fact that since his compositions involved jazz themes and styles, and the fact that his opera, Porgy and Bess, was regarded by so many as a musical and not an opera, this had a decided influence on his reputation. But it was Walter Damrosch, the conductor of the New York Phil, who wanted to promote this young American composer after his overwhelming success with the Concerto in F and Rhapsody in Blue. I really believe that American in Paris is a true tone poem because it was inspired by totally extra-musical considerations: the sites, the sounds, the smells of Paris, and even Gershwin’s homesickness while he was there. Flatt and the DPO imbued this work with the necessary rhythmic excitement and drive that everyone is familiar with when they hear this work. The middle section, with its sad trumpet solo has always reminded me, because it is so similar, to the aria, “Bess, you is my woman now,” from Porgy and Bess. And of course, Manny Araujo, who is the principal trumpet for the DPO, was beyond excellent. Put quite simply, he never seems to make any mistakes, and he always plays with a remarkable sensitivity.
This was an excellent concert. I am extremely pleased to tell you that the DPO has improved considerably under the direction of Maestro Adam Flatt. It is truly a noticeable change. Yes, there are still some problems with some of the sections playing out of tune, and there were some spots Friday night. But that is progressing to the point where it may not be noticeable to the general public at large. There were some excellent solos Friday night by the section leaders, and the woodwind section, in particular, is always superb. As Adam Flatt said Friday night, “The Denver Philharmonic Orchestra is one of the treasures of the Denver Metro area.”
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: Bruce Blomquist, Carlton Alexander, Catherine Ricca, Cheryl Gooden, Dave Wallace, Joan of Arc, Joe Walsh, Josh Chance, Kathy Thayer, Kenneth Greenwald, Manny Araujo, Shaun Burley, Steven Byess, Verdi
Friday night, May 7, the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra played their season finale at their home venue, the KPOF Concert Hall in Denver. The program was comprised of the Overture to Giovanna d’Arco (Joan of Arc) by Giuseppe Verdi, the Mozart Concerto for Bassoon in B Flat Major, K. 191, with the DPO’s own Kenneth Greenwald performing, and the beautiful, if often performed, Tchaikovsky Fourth Symphony. The DPO is still involved in a search for a new conductor, and tonight’s guest conductor was Steven Byess.
Steven Byess is Music Director of the Tupelo Symphony Orchestra and the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra, Cover Conductor for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Ohio Light Opera, and Conductor at the International Vocal Arts Institute in Tel Aviv, Israel.
He is a former faculty member of the Cleveland Institute of Music and the University of Michigan School of Music.
Mr. Byess received his Bachelor of Music Degree in classical performance and jazz studies from Georgia State University, and his Master of Music degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied conducting with Louis Lane and Carl Topilow, bassoon with George Goslee and David McGill, violin with Carol Ruzicka, and piano with Olga Radosavljevich. He also attended the Pierre Monteux Memorial School for Conductors under the tutelage of Maître Charles Bruck. In addition to his conducting studies with Louis Lane, Robert Shaw, and Carl Topilow, he has worked under the auspices of the American Symphony Orchestra League with such noted conductors as Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, and Otto Werner Mueller. Mr. Byess was an assistant to conductor Robert Shaw at the Shaw Institute in Souilliac, France.
In the opening Verdi overture, it was readily apparent that the orchestra was responding to every demand placed upon them by Byess, and that one of the requests he had made of them during their rehearsals was that the violins, particularly the second violins, play in tune. And what a difference this makes! I have not heard the violins play so well since Dr. Horst Buchholz and Dr. Lawrence Golan conducted this orchestra. The opera, Joan of Arc, was written in 1845 and is Verdi’s seventh opera. It is not performed as much, perhaps because the story follows the play which was written by Friedrich Schiller, rather than remaining true to historical fact. This really is a shame because the music is quite good and is typical Verdi. Maestro Byess gave this work some genuine electric tension and there was some fine oboe work by Carlton Alexander, as well as the flutes, Cheryl Gooden and Catherine Ricca.
The Mozart Bassoon Concerto in B Flat, which followed the Verdi, is the first concerto for wind instruments. It was finished in 1774, the year in which Mozart did not travel until December. It is his only surviving bassoon Concerto, though it is suspected that he may have written three more, as well as a bassoon sonata for Thaddäus Baron von Dürnitz (who owned an astonishing seventy-four pieces by Mozart). From the outset, the violins again sounded very good. I emphasize this because throughout this season the violins have seemed to struggle even though they have a fine concert master, Kathy Thayer. It is quite possible that the entire orchestra felt an immediate connection with Maestro Byess, and of course, that is a fortunate situation. But, it would be a shame if their past struggles this season were caused by their anticipation for a conductor that they could readily connect with. One of the first things that a string player learns is to play in tune. But all of that aside, they sounded quite good in the Mozart. And of course, so did Kenneth Greenwald. Greenwald joined the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra as principal bassoonist in 2008. A native of Colorado, he grew up surrounded by music. He began studying the violin at age 5, and later, would study piano and flute. He discovered the bassoon when he was in high school, and began taking lessons with Jonathan Sherwin, and later Joann Goble, both of whom performed with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. He received both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in performance from the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver.
Greenwald has been a fine addition to the DPO, and his orchestral performing experience has made him a very reliable solo performer. That is to say, that he has great confidence and seems to be remarkably relaxed when he performs as a soloist. His playing is marked by great ease, and he does not seem to struggle at all with any of the technical difficulties. While his performance Friday night was very good Mozart, I would have preferred a little more playfulness and, perhaps, a little more dynamic contrast. The orchestra was quite good in their support of Greenwald, and he and Maestro Byess gave the impression that they had performed together for many years, such was their ease in this performance. One unusual feature of this concerto is the tempo marking for the second movement: Andante ma adagio (easily flowing, but slow). I would also point out that Mozart used the theme of the slow movement in his opera The Marriage of Figaro. This was really an enjoyable performance of this popular work from bassoon literature. Greenwald had absolutely no problems with the giant leaps that occur in this work.
After the intermission, the DPO performed Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony. Much has been made about Tchaikovsky symphonies having programs, and it does seem that Tchaikovsky’s patroness, Nadya von Meck, asked him to write a program for this particular work. That fact led many critics to disparage the work for which nowadays seems rather silly. There’s no question that he had a true program in mind for his Sixth Symphony, and even considered calling it the Programmatic Symphony but decided against that – not only did he dislike that title, but he was afraid that people would ask him what the program was, and he never divulged the program to anyone, not even his brother. The Fourth Symphony’s program, what ever it may be, seems to be a little bit more contrived, because it was written after the symphony was completed.
Byess is not an overly demonstrative conductor, but throughout this entire concert he demonstrated great confidence in his ability to control the orchestra, and he did so with grace and passion. This is a difficult symphony, and every movement that he made seemed to say that he knew it was difficult, but there is only one way to do it, and that way is Tchaikovsky’s. The orchestra really responded to him, and there was some marvelous clarinet work from Shaun Burley. In fact, there was some marvelous work from the entire woodwind section. In the second movement, the violins had a few glitches, but the glitches lasted only a few measures and seemed odd, because they performed so well throughout the entire concert. The third movement of the symphony is a scherzo, which requires all of the strings to play pizzicato, except in the trio section of the scherzo which Tchaikovsky wrote mainly for woodwinds. The pizzicato was together and had great dynamic contrast – it really demonstrated what the strings in this orchestra can do when they put their minds to it. The fourth movement is guaranteed to give any orchestra a real workout. It is difficult. But like the first movement, it gives each section a chance to shine. The brass section, all of them, Dave Wallace on horn, Manny Araujo on trumpet, Josh Chance on trombone, and Bruce Blomquist who plays bass trombone, and Joe Walsh on Tuba, were all exceptional.
The Denver Philharmonic has established a reputation of giving absolute stellar performances in their final concert of the year. This was no exception, and the success was in so many ways due to the musicianship and leadership of Steven Byess. It was genuine pleasure to hear the violins get back into the groove. The entire orchestra worked very hard at this performance. Bravo!