Friday, March 31, 2006

Stepanich: 'overtaken by delight'

Our concert last Monday in Ft. Lauderdale's Broward Center for the Performing Arts elicited several positive reviews, including this one by Greg Stepanich of the Palm Beach Post. Here's a nice section praising Schubert's 'Great' C Major Symphony:

I think the thing that made this Schubert so wonderful was the orchestra's sense of this music's kinship to folk and dance styles, and not incidentally to the sheer joy of creating indelible melodies. A typical reading of the processional-like opening theme, for instance, is usually a call for sobriety and purity of line, but here, while the lines were clear as they could be, there was a sense of playfulness and high spirits that made the theme sound newly composed, and newly composed by a writer who was very proud of his creation and wanted to show it off.

That spirit prevailed throughout the performance, from the jauntiness of the oboe theme in the slow movement to [conductor Michael Tilson] Thomas' refusal to hold back on big climaxes (perhaps not very 1828, but certainly Schubert wouldn't care). It was, in sum, a big-hearted reading of this symphony in every way; it benefited immeasurably from being performed by young people to whom this piece is brand-new, and being conducted by a man whose musicianship remains in a perpetual state of willingness to be overtaken by delight.

Greg Stepanich himself seems like a big-hearted critic, if that is not an oxymoron, and I don't mean to be at all facetious. Too often I think reviewers take pains to insert some pointed insult or wry aside, if only to assert their own critical distance. Excessive compliments can seem just as false as contrived fault-finding; but sometimes it's nice to just get swept up in the generous spirit of a piece of music - I know that was my experience of the Schubert symphony, and I was happy to see it reflected in this review.

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