sunriver music festival report

Great Hall at Sunriver Resort, 2011 - Photo: Charles Noble
Great Hall at Sunriver Resort, 2011 – Photo: Charles Noble

It’s been a busy first week at the 2013 edition of the Sunriver Music Festival. For the first time in quite some time the opening classical concert of the festival was once again held in the Great Hall at Sunriver Resort. Years of belt tightening by the resort had led to a greatly reduced availability of the hall (which is a wonderful venue in which to see and hear live music), so this was a very positive step on behalf of the resort management to give us a third date in the hall. As a result, however, of the late date that this date was granted us, there were five classical concerts instead of the usual four. This made for a season which was packed with music, including a very busy opening pops concert which contained works by John Williams, Rossini, Dvorak, and a few other pot boilers as well – which made for a tiring beginning to the festival!The first concert, given the title “Music Moves You” (as part of the overall theme of the music in relation to the art of the dance) began with a first half consisting of Verdi’s Overture to La Forza del Destino, Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin, and Bernstein’s Three Dance Episodes from “On the Town”. The festival brass were a highlight of the Verdi. In Ravel’s small scale masterpiece, it was principal oboist Peter Stempe’s show – he dispatched the many virtuosic solos with aplomb. The Bernstein featured stellar turns by principal clarinetist Ben Lulich and acting principal trumpet Charles Butler. The second half of the concert again feature Lulich, this time in a solo turn in

Benjamin Lulich
Benjamin Lulich

Lutoslawski’s Dance Preludes for Clarinet and Orchestra. Originally written for piano accompaniment, Lutoslawski’s colorful orchestrations served as a vivid backdrop to the evocative and brilliant playing of Ben Lulich. Four of the Dvorak Slavonic Dances (which catapulted him to immediate prominence as a powerful new force in the compositional world of Europe) followed, sweeping the orchestra along in a kaleidoscope of instrumental colors and dance ‘feels’. The program closed with an audience favorite: Rossini’s Overture to William Tell, which gave a chance for English hornist Wendy Cushner and acting principal flutist Alexander Lipay to respectively demonstrate their lyric and virtuoso chops.

The second concert was held at the Tower Theater in Bend, about 12 miles to the north of Sunriver on Hwy 97. It’s a wonderful facility, right downtown, and extensively refurbished in the 1990’s. This concert was entirely devoted to the music of W.A. Mozart. The concert opened with the Overture to The Magic Flute, which showed off the stentorian low brass to good effect. The Horn Concerto No. 3 followed, with hornist Michael

Michael Gast
Michael Gast

Gast taking the solo turn. Michael is the principal hornist of the Minnesota Orchestra, but is taking a leave this coming season to play associate principal horn with the New York Philharmonic. He’s a formidable player (but a delightfully laid back guy) who tossed off the concerto as if it were a mere trifle. After intermission, the viola section was excused for a set of Six German Dances (Mozart did not include violas in his scoring of the work). These light and inconsequential works were then followed by the first of Mozart’s miraculous final three symphonies, the Symphony No. 39 in E-flat major. With the violins divided to either side of the stage, and the cellos next to the first violins, and the violas next to the second violins, it was amazing to hear the constant fusillades of sixteenth notes that the second violins had to contend with for the entire finale of the symphony! Not to be outdone, the first violins had much to contend with in the finale as well, it being one of the most critical audition excerpts in the repertoire.

The third concert, also held in the Tower Theater, was all about the world of the Tango. The opening work, Alberto Ginastera’s  Varaciones Concertantes, featured solo turns in each variation for many of the principal players. Harpist Ellen Lindquist and acting principal cellist Nadine Hall began with the theme, eloquently played with beautiful tone and phrasing. Other solos were taken in the course of the piece by acting principal flute Alexander Lipay, principal clarinetist Ben Lulich (in one of the most difficult solos in the orchestral clarinet repertoire – brilliantly played), concertmaster Steven Moeckel, principal violist Charles Noble, principal horn Dave Kruse, principal trumpet Jeffrey Work, and acting principal bass Jason Schooler, who made his double bass sound like a much more nimble and sensitive instrument than one might expect.

Following this explosion of orchestral color and virtuosity, it was time for a different sort of experience. We were joined by the preeminent bandoneon virtuoso Daniel Binelli for Astor

Daniel Binelli
Daniel Binelli

Piazzolla’s Concerto Aconcagua, which featured propulsive tango rhythms in the outer movements, and those classic, languid moments of tango magic in the inner movements. Binelli distinguished himself with the sort of incredible playing that one would expect of a musician who had played with the tango master himself. It was one of those uplifting experiences where being in close proximity to such a great artist simply lifted the artistic level of everything that happened on stage. After intermission, the concert continued with concertmaster Steven Moeckel’s beautifully played reading of Spring from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, followed by an impassioned account of Piazzolla’s Spring from The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires given by principal second violinist Corine Brouwer. This most sensuous of concerts was brought to a rousing close with the Danzon No. 2 of Arturo Márquez.

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