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CLASSICAL  July 2008

CLASSICAL July 2008

Subject:

Gaffigan, Brueggergosman Launch Festival del Sole

From:

Janos Gereben <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 18 Jul 2008 18:52:39 -0700

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text/plain

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Young Talent Dazzles or Promises
By Janos Gereben
Festival del Sole
Opening concert, July 12, 2008
Lincoln Theater, Yountville, Napa
James Gaffigan conducts Del Sole Festival Orchestra
Measha Brueggergosman, soprano
Natasha Peremski, pianist

Unusual as it may be to mention the economy and other seemingly extraneous
items right at the top of a concert review, the unusual nature of said
economy (and its relationship to the arts) well warrants this here.

First impression Saturday at the beginning of the third season of Festival
del Sole: a full Lincoln Theater, the cavernous space filled probably
more than at previous gala openers.  There well might have been some
complimentary tickets to residents of the landlord Veterans Home, but
attendance was unquestionably good-to-excellent at this pricy event 60
miles and several gallons north of San Francisco.  This in face of the
general housing meltdown (the weekend before expected drastic federal
actions), increasingly sharp inflation, making flying for artists, driving
for listeners a problem, at least.  Add the threat if hundreds of fires
in the state, conceivably threatening bone-dry Napa itself, and it becomes
clear that Festival organizers, marketing, sales, and audience persistence
deserve to be acknowledged heartily for filling the hall.

In addition to making the event possible at all, Festival directors
Barrett Wissman and Richard Walker have also earned good-karma points
by engaging brilliant young artists and even local ones, although the
festival has originated in Italy and Singapore, through the global IMG
Artists organization, which represents prominent musicians all around
the world.

And so, in addition to significant local representation in the Festival
Orchestra, stars of the gala were San Francisco Symphony Associate
Conductor James Gaffigan, 28; Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman,
31; and S.F.  Conservatory alumna Natasha Peremski, 21.

Finally, beyond all those factoids, here is the "big fact" about the
concert: most of it was truly wonderful, easily justifying the name of
"festival," in the sense of fete or celebration.  Pulling together the
evening: Gaffigan, dancing elegantly on the podium, having eye contact
and and inner connection with every musician, focusing and representing
the music, above all, and presenting a prominent - but not excessively
posing - physical "face" of the music to the audience.

Gaffigan's program selections were both interesting and accessible: no
tired warhorses, but good, valuable music, which could be partially or
fully familiar to most of the audience.  Through works by Bizet, Ravel,
Mussorgsky and Rachmaninov, Gaffigan was both in charge and allowing the
orchestra and soloists a great deal of leeway in their partnership.

The Suite from Bizet's "Arlesiene" danced and enchanted, with only a
touch of un-Gallic heavy-handedness here and there.  One wonders about
rehearsal time; it sounded like an excellent read-through by seasoned
professionals.

Ravel's "Sheherazade" came from another place, that of effortless great
performances.  Unlike what was to come later, a wildly uneven performance
by another artist, Brueggergosman completely owned, internalized, breathed,
radiated the music.  The Barefoot Soprano (she is sticking to her
now-trademarked appearence) and Gaffigan's orchestra were at one - in
balance, tempo, a sense of whatever the music was saying.  And so,
Brueggergosman's initially quiet, almost whispering delivery of the
Tristan Klingsor text:

   I should like to see eyes darkened with love
   And pupils shining with joy
   Against skins golden as oranges;
   I should like to see velvet clothes
   And robes with long fringes...

in "Asie" had all the quiet longing and romanticism that any effort in
the delivery inevitably ruins.  Strings and, especially, woodwind embraced
and caressed the voice, realizing Ravel's full, overwhelming impact.
With the understated delivery (enhanced by the singer's effortlessly
authoritative French diction) throughout the song, the explosion at the
end of it was all the more startling, hair-raising in its power.  The
two shorter songs - "The Enchanted Flute" and "The Indifferent One" -
received gorgeous performances, Brueggergosman's voice and the orchestra's
sound fusing with sensual, sparkling magnetism:

   But no, you pass,
   And from my doorsill I see you move away
   Making me a last gracious gesture,
   And your hips lightly swing
   In your languid, feminine gait...

And the Indifferent One, along with the music, just disappears, and then
it's over, much too soon, Brueggergosman takes a couple of well-deserved
bows, leaves...  and the orchestra is sitting on stage, waiting for the
conductor to lead them off for the intermission.  Whispers from the first
violins to the concertmaster, indecision.  Gaffigan didn't show, perhaps
already deep in the score of the next piece of music, so the audience
witnessed the funny-awkward disorderly filing out of musicians forgotten
by the maestro.

Unity restored after the intermission, Gaffigan and orchestra lit into
Mussorgsky's "Khovanchina," and the young conductor once again showed
his special affinity for opera, leading the long, lyrical lines towards
the deep, rumbling climaxes in as "Russian" a manner as his Ravel was
quintessentially French.

But this was only a calling card in advance of Gaffigan leading a superb
orchestral performance of the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2 in C
minor, Op. 18. All of one piece, authentic, secure, the opening Moderato
and lyrical Adagio sostenuto were outstanding, the Allegro scherzando
only Rach-Fans can love - sufficient. That was all in the orchestra, but
what of the soloist?

Natasha Paremski
(http://www.sfcv.org/2008/07/08/music-news-66/#anchor8), who has gone
from the S.F. Conservatory to the world stage in four years, is "hot
property," and judging by her Napa performance on Saturday, she is
overextendening herself dangerously. In the middle of concert
engagements and recording projects, she stepped in the place of Andre
Watts, who recently sustained a minor arm injury. Paremski received a
great ovation both for "coming to the rescue" and for playing virtually
all the notes of this great beast of a concerto. Indeed, just getting
through the Rachmaninov Second through deserves acknowledgment. What
might have escaped the grateful audience's attention was the missing
element in the performance: most of the music.

The concerto can be played in a steely manner or romantically, but
whatever the artist does, she is expected to link the notes together,
to bring out phrases, to provide a tempo, and - if all goes well - inner
tension and a sweeping rhythm.  With all her dexterity and obvious talent,
Paremski performed in a tentative, unfocussed way, virtually "noodling"
loosely-connected notes, especially in the first movement.  The long
lines were simply not there, at times, even brief phrases fell apart,
note followed note in a haphazard manner. No fire, no passion, no singing
- just "playin' through."

With her obvious technical and musical ability, Paremski may want to
take a listen to this performance in a year or so, and dedicate herself
to a performance/recording project to erase the memory of most of what
happened before the Standing O.  Lack of maturity, a rush to the top,
and underdeveloped artistry in a fine prodigy comes as a surprise, even
shock, to spoiled audiences; on the plus side, when a young artist
performs with depth and maturity - I am thinking especially of 20-year-old
Yuja Wang, but there are many others - it's all the more satisfying.

Janos Gereben
www.sfcv.org
[log in to unmask]

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