The Santa Cruz Symphony’s 60th Anniversary season began this past weekend with a cosmic presentation of Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, and Gustav Holst’s The Planets.
The spine-tingling music and resounding applause from the Symphony performances are no doubt still reverberating around the walls of the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium and Watsonville Mello Center. The Music of the Spheres production was a thrilling reminder of how lucky we are to have such phenomenal musical talent in our community, and what we can look forward to in the months ahead. Four Seasons and Planets are two of the most influential and frequently used series of classical music in contemporary culture. The Santa Cruz Symphony brought these iconic scores to life in refreshing ways, reflecting the inherent harmony found within music, nature, and the universe.
What comes through so poignantly in Santa Cruz Symphony performances is how their collaborative approach heightens the quality of music and our experience of it. Music Director and Conductor Daniel Stewart’s multiple gifts as a musical leader are visible in his dedication to engaging with local artists as well as musicians of international renown. This was confirmed last weekend – the mesmerizing contributions of violinist Nigel Armstrong, the women of the Cabrillo Symphonic Chorus, and twelve newly appointed musicians brought vibrant energy and personality to the stage for the season’s first concert.
Vivaldi’s Four Seasons spotlighted the dynamic Nigel Armstrong, who is celebrating his second year as the Symphony’s concertmaster. Armstrong’s prestigious and extensive musical background is remarkable. His performance of the violin concerti reflected the dexterity, precision, and wide-ranging expression that identifies him as a brilliant artist and soloist. Balanced by Armstrong’s dramatic characterization and Maestro Stewart’s intuitive leadership, the orchestra fulfilled Vivaldi’s intention to invoke the many qualities of Earth’s seasons. The musicians vividly conjured up aspects of nature like rainfall in winter and birdsong in spring.
For Holst’s intense astrological suite, Planets, the orchestra shared the stage with the women of the Cabrillo Symphonic Chorus, directed by Cheryl Anderson. The chorus vocals merged with the orchestra seamlessly – at times it was challenging to decipher the unearthly voices from the sounds of the instruments. In these moments, it is beautifully apparent that each singer, musician, and director participating in Symphony performances is aware of how their individual role impacts the collective experience. Through their collaboration, the archetypal quality of each planet emerged, creating an otherworldly experience that brought our attention upwards to “the Spheres”. As with Four Seasons, the orchestra captured the distinct sound and style of each movement – dark and light, strong and gentle, playful and profound.
The addition of twelve highly reputable musicians to the orchestra this season also indicates the Symphony’s ongoing evolution and commitment to working with renowned artists. Among the new orchestra members is cello soloist Jonah Kim, who will be featured in a more intimate cello recital as the 2017/18 season unfolds.
Music of the Spheres provided a mystical vision of what is sure to be a magnificent 60th season.
Get your tickets for the Santa Cruz Symphony 2017/18 season HERE!