Then There Was One--Conductor Darryl One plays his hand for Monterey Symphony stakes.
Thursday, May 27, 1999
Darryl One wants to be Monterey Symphony music director. How to tell? This last candidate in a field of seven got the violins to play in tune and rhythm. Although this would seem to be a no-brainer, it became one of several yardsticks by which to measure the technical standards of those vying for the post.
Taking the podium with easy authority, One immediately put the orchestra into high gear for Ron Nelson''s vivacious Savannah River Holiday, a Fourth-of-July sparkler of brassy American energy and tuneful optimism. The classically designed piece is so well-crafted that it may blind the listener to its shortfall of originality and derivative style (think Charles Ives, Samuel Barber, Bernard Rogers and the Eastman School). However, with so little else to affirm our national identity these days, it deserves to gain in significance.
One finds it hard to figure Brahms'' Piano Concerto in D Minor as a good audition choice. The work is long, dark and conflicted. The grandiose first movement documents a titanic personal struggle (the callow composer''s mentor, Schumann, had just attempted suicide), opening on a menacing tone then giving way to moments of desolation. Pianist Oliver Kern devised a broad conception and, to his credit, the conductor supported that view. But the orchestra was plainly not comfortable with the piece, sluggish in its response and occasionally sloppy in its ensemble work and even some solos. Moreover, Maestro One made an error in judgment by allowing momentum in the first and second movements to nearly grind to a halt. Playing slow and quiet is fine, but allowing the energy to dissipate is fatal.
For his part, Kern made more of the circumspect and softly toned passages than of the dramatic and muscled episodes.
Rimsky''s Scheherazade restored the orchestra to its earlier brilliance. Here the response to the conductor''s stick was facile and immediate. Dynamic contrasts were as vivid as phrasing was elastic under One''s direction. Indeed, the conductor showed his expressive mettle handsomely in shaping the string passages of The Young Prince and Princess. Further, he made friends in the orchestra by leaving the many solo players to their own expressive ideas. Principally, this gave exceptional freedom to concertmaster William Barbini who, unfortunately, popped his E string. Its replacement stretched enough in the closing passages of the Rimsky to drop pitch, snaring Barbini with flat tones on exposed harmonics and no way to fix them.
Look for an analysis of the Monterey Symphony search season and recommendations in next week''s column.
The Carmel Bach Festival advises that tickets are going fast for its "Luminous Spirit" concert of 12th-century poet/composer Hildegard von Bingen, July 19, at Carmel Mission. Soprano Rosa Lamoreaux and the Hesperius ensemble are scheduled for one performance only. For information, phone 624-2046, or visit the Web site, www.bachfestival.org.
The Mozart Society of California has announced its 1999-2000 season:
Oct. 15, Los Angeles Piano Quartet
Nov. 12, Orion String Quartet
Feb. 11, Altenberg Piano Trio
Apr. 1, Orpheus String Quartet
Apr. 28, Gold Coast Chamber Players
All concerts at Sunset Center, Carmel. 625-3637.
Last Week''s Quiz: After reading the score of Dvorak''s cello concerto, what famed composer remarked, "Why on earth didn''t I know that one could write a violoncello concerto like this? If I had only known, I would have written one long ago!"? Answer: Johannes Brahms.
This Week''s Quiz: Who, in 1934, composed the song cycle Songs of the lovesick muezzin, on poems of Iwaszkiewicza? cw
Hartnell Community Orchestra Thursday, 7:30pm. Carl Christensen conducts Finlandia, On the Trail, Die Fledermaus, selections from Cats, Lord of the Dance. Main Stage, Hartnell College, 156 Homestead Ave., Salinas. Free. 755-6905.
MPC Piano Ensemble Sunday, 3pm. Piano ensemble class spring concert. Music Hall, Monterey Peninsula College, 980 Fremont St., Monterey. Free. 646-4063.