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Phyrigian Awesome Persian Holiday with NJSO
by Sherri Rase      |   follow us...

   
photo by Fred Stucker
Xian Zhang & NJSO
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While many communities were hosting their St. Patrick’s Day Parades, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO) hosted a more exotic series of concerts featuring a World Premiere work by contemporary classical composer Richard Danielpour and the work of amazing young pianist Sara Daneshpour.
The concert was remarkable for a number of reasons, as the first and final pieces of the concert were amazingly beautiful works by that composer of heart music, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Starting with a suite of music from “Sleeping Beauty,” ordered a little differently by Tchaikovsky aficionado and NJSO Music Director Xian Zhang, we enjoyed a dramatic build full of color and life that truly set the stage for what was to come. The Introduction: “La Fée des lilas” created the drama from the get go, and the Panorama added passion in the flow and beauty of the music. The famous headlong and glorious Valse captures the affect and emotion surrounding a much-anticipated event and reminds us how Tchaikovsky wrote waltzes that brought us into the 20th century. The Adagio: Pas d’action begins with the cascading virtuoso cadenza for the harp that reaches to places we didn’t know we have. The Rose Adagio has scale, sweep and such aching beauty in the harp that connects from the very beginning to something deep within.
Richard Danielpour is a contemporary composer that stands like Colossus astride worlds old and new and he wrote this piece especially for Sara Daneshpour’s unique talents and technique. Both of these artists’ families originate from the area once known as Persia and composer Danielpour makes liberal use of the modes of music that are far from Western–including the Locrian scale, which is a very close cousin to the Phrygian mode that you may have studied in music theory. This beautifully different sound transports us to another mind-set entirely and we experience tales of Persian mythology and a specially imagined party with three mystic poets celebrating their work–Rumi, Hafez and Khoyam all dancing as dervishes in Paradise. What a delightful mental picture! And Daneshpour’s playing is sheer brilliance–golden sunlight illuminating Paradise, as her petite hands bend the music to her will. In the pre-concert discussion, she gave us a taste of what to come and related how the orchestra and piano’s relationship is very different in these four vignettes that could each stand alone. Different from a traditional concerto, the piano is featured at times, while at others acts as a supporting player accompanying the orchestra in the drama of the work.
The second act began with Franz Joseph Haydn’s Sinfonia concertante in B-flat Major, H. I:105. This was a great opportunity to see four of our favorite NJSO musicians really strut their stuff! Eric Wyrick, on violin, led the charge, as Haydn wrote this Sinfonia for a violinist, whose ensemble included also a cellist, an oboe, and a bassoon with our lineup rounded out by Principals Jonathan Spitz, Robert Ingliss and Robert Wagner, respectively. Haydn wrote delightful chamber interactions that seem to foreshadow the “trading fours” that jazz musicians do and the interaction with the orchestra becomes even more rich and satisfying. The Allegro movement is smooth and mannered and a perfect way for Wyrick to shine. Listening is an art and this ensemble showed such finely tuned sense and sensibility that the music seemed organic. The Andante exhibited astonishing grace, symmetry and technique and the Allegro con spirito displayed Haydn’s sense of humor and included a violin solo that brings sunshine through storm clouds and swirls the melody through to bassoon, oboe and cello like a maelstrom then back. A real WOW!
The final work of a magnificent afternoon was Tchaikovsky’s telling of “Francesca da Rimini,” Opus 32. Tchaikovsky was quite taken with the story of this woman whose arranged loveless marriage to a cruel hunchback brought her to a doomed love with her husband’s handsome brother. When Gianciotto catches Paolo and Francesca in flagrante, she flings herself in front of her love and is thus doomed to hell in Dante’s Canto V. The story of such passion captured Tchaikovsky’s imagination so completely that he quotes lines in the score from this story. We hear every moment–the cruelty, the limerance and the final coup de grace. This is why Tchaikovsky’s music is a favorite of Xian Zhang to conduct, and as she danced on the podium conducting–cajoling, exhorting–she is reminding us why he should be one of our favorites as well.
NJSO is a moveable feast. Visit www.njsymphony.org to get your seat for concerts you will remember!




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