The Santa Cruz Symphony’s recent production, Celebration!, was a gift to the romantic imagination, reminding us with music of the rapture associated with being alive.
As always, SCS fostered a memorably vibrant exchange between the orchestra and soloists; performers and audience. Reviving work by iconic composers and introducing us to innovative music and musicians, the 4th Classic Concert was indeed one of the most celebratory experiences of the 60th Anniversary Season.
Celebration reflected various life episodes, in particular threading the music together with themes of marriage and elements of mankind. The program opened with a buoyant rendition of Mozart’s Overture to the Marriage of Figaro that was brisk and flirtatious. Maestro Daniel Stewart led a fresh, lively performance that highlighted the orchestra’s talent for accenting details and telling a story through colorful melodies.
Along with the many virtues of his conducting, Stewart shines as a musician and composer. SCS presented the world premiere of Social Media, which Stewart composed in 2017 in honor of the 60th Anniversary Season. He views music as the “original social media” – a medium that connects audiences to the significant issues and ideas of any given time. Speed, unpredictability, and futuristic keyboard notes gave Stewart’s composition a relevant feel and contemporary texture. The orchestra conveyed the fast pace and overwhelming influence of technology and social media in modern life, vividly representing the era in which we live through striking sounds.
The first half of the program concluded with the virtuosity of guest soloist Will Langlie-Miletich performing Giovanni Bottesini’s Bass Concerto No. 2. The 2016 Klein International String Competition winner performed with excellent intonation, precision and style on double bass. Langlie-Miletich imparted the wide-ranging delicacy and intensity of Bottesini’s spell-binding music with such outstanding ease and dexterity that if it weren’t for the live performance, we would forget the artist was playing a large, unwieldy instrument.
The second half revisited the theme of marriage, beginning with composer Lou Harrison’s playful ballet score, Suite from Marriage at the Eiffel Tower. Harrison was a trans-cultural legend of contemporary music and originally from the West Coast. He arranged an abridged version of his Suite for SCS 58 years ago, which was last performed locally in 1995 and was recently unarchived. The orchestra gave an exhilarating performance of Harrison’s Suite, narrating the lighthearted mood of the original ballet story and capturing the dazzling, dramatic aspects of Parisian culture and everyday life.
The “dessert” of the celebration was Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra, featuring Stewart and San Francisco Symphony’s violinist In Sun Jang (a prize-winning musician and Stewart’s wife). Stewart and Jang’s elegance, compatibility, and decorative styles as individual musicians were reflected in their bright partnership on stage. Stewart provided a spirited accompaniment on viola to Jang’s graceful violin tone and nuances. The two soloists complimented each other with exquisite harmony, enhanced by rich, sumptuous flavors from the surrounding orchestra. As a collective, the soloists and orchestra reacted and blended creatively to transmit Mozart’s luminous, multi-layered sounds.
When much of life is fleeting and ephemeral, it is a revelation to experience a performance that keeps us enraptured and leaves a lingering impression long after the celebration has ended. Cheers to SCS on delivering a delicious “slice of life”.