Charismatic young conductor opens Illinois Philharmonic’s 35th season in style
There’s an unconscious tendency among many urban music aficionados to think that the best of everything can only be found in the city and that music ensembles in the suburbs—especially the not-north suburbs—must invariably be third-or fourth-rate.
That ain’t necessarily so as was shown Saturday night in Frankfort when conductor David Danzmayr opened the 35th season of the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra.
The Illinois Philharmonic has been bringing symphonic music to the far south and southwest suburbs for three decades, first under Robert Frisbie and then under the long tenure of Carmen DeLeone.
Danzmayr certainly appears to be the right conductor to take the Illinois Philharmonic to the next level. In his first concert as music director Saturday at the Performing Arts Center of Lincoln-Way North High School, the 32-year-old Austrian showed himself a dynamic and charismatic podium figure drawing fizzing and intensely committed playing from the IPO musicians.
As with most regional ensembles, the roster isn’t entirely consistent with some blowsy brass playing and uneven woodwinds. The strings are superb, however, and played exceptionally well. Most significantly, the entire orchestra is clearly stoked by their new maestro and played with daunting fire and responsiveness Saturday. (For a high school assembly hall, the venue is not at all bad either—clear, detailed and less dry than the brick walls might indicate.)
One of Danzmayr’s most laudable traits is his avowed commitment to American music. That was demonstrated with his opening work, the suite from Walter Piston’s ballet, The Incredible Flutist.
Piston’s only stage work is fully characteristic and crafted with unerring skill, snappily scored and deftly blends the refined and populist elements. It also possesses one of the most indelible melodies in all American music in the “Tango of the Merchant’s Daughters,” a swaying instantly memorable theme that is impossible to get out of one’s mind.
Danzymayr displayed a sure hand in this work getting rhythmically deft and excellent playing from the Illinois Philharmonic musicians. He drew great ardency and rich string tone to the tango theme, the “Spanish Waltz” went with fine whirling panache and he conveyed the shimmering atmosphere of the “Siciliana,”aided by fine clarinet playing. The IPO members proved fully committed to the score with boisterous shouts for the circus’s arrival and an idiomatic canine bark. Only the main central solo proved a disappointment with a less-than-incredible flute solo, choppy, short-breathed and missing the evocative air of mystery.
Danymayr’s leadership proved just as impressive in Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. Granted there were fleeting ensemble slips, some precarious brass moments and a decidedly raw-toned horn solo in the Andante. Yet while not the most technically polished rendering, Danzmayr elicited a robust, powerful and high-voltage performance. The strings were especially inspired handling the fast figures at Danzmayr’s fleet tempos securely, and the conductor built inexorable dramatic momentum to a rousing and emphatic coda that brought the audience to their feet.
The centerpiece was Rodrigo’s evergreen Concierto di Aranjuez with Ana Vidovic as soloist. While not the most blazingly virtuosic performance of this work, the Croatian guitarist possesses a sterling technique and Vidovic’s more intimate style worked just as well. Her nimble dynamic shading in the outer movements was striking and, in the famous Adagio, the soloist distilled a rapt nocturnal reverie with hushed expressive playing, unfortunately marred Saturday by an explosive cough by one audience member.
Under Danzymayr and the IPO’s ambitious and energetic young executive director Andrew Bradford, the Illinois Philharmonic is already making waves. It’s worth making the forty-five minute drive from downtown Chicago, to check out this orchestra and its talented young music director.
The program will be repeated 3 p.m. Sunday. ipomusic.org
Posted in Performances