Music Review: Young cellist, Vermont art wow VSO audience
By Jim Lowe
Staff Writer | January 22,2013
Anthony Edwards / Staff Photo
The Vermont Symphony Orchestra performs at the Paramount Theatre on Sunday afternoon.
The Vermont Symphony Orchestra’s Sunday afternoon concert at Rutland’s Paramount Theatre was full of beautiful music, and some gorgeous visual art as well, but there’s no question as to who the star was.
Nineteen-year-old Cicely Parnas wowed the audience with a virtuosic and passionate performance of Edward Elgar’s brooding Cello Concerto in e minor, Opus 85. Parnas, a student of Sharon Robinson at the Cleveland Institute of Music, had no trouble with the virtuoso passages, delivering them with clarity and even finesse. The lyrical slow movement, Adagio, even achieved real tenderness, the most difficult emotion to convey musically as it requires vulnerability.
Missing though was the deep passion that resulted in a deliberateness in her expression in the more powerful passages, but this is achieved only with age and life experience. Parnas is certainly an artist to watch — and enjoy.
The VSO and Music Director Jaime Laredo delivered the concerto’s rich accompaniment not only with sensitivity but deep expressive coloring throughout the orchestra. (The same program was presented on Saturday at Burlington’s Flynn Center.)
Color was also the theme of Zoltan Kodaly’s 1906 tone poem “Summer Evening,” not only for the hues of a Hungarian summer cited by the composer, but for the paintings projected above the orchestra during the performance. Four Vermont artists – Fran Bull, Ruth Hamilton, Warren Kimble and Don Ross — were commissioned by the VSO to create art inspired by this particular piece.
The results, abstract and colorful, were each beautiful in their own right, but the jury is still out as to whether the art was a distraction or complemented the musical experience. The VSO reported responses on both sides, and this reviewer had mixed feelings.
There can be no doubt, though, as to the colors in the music. An early work of Kodaly’s, lacking his later Bartók-like knottiness, the pastoral nature is underscored with a subtle sense of movement — all brought out beautifully by Laredo and the VSO.
The major work, Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5 in d minor, Opus 107, was written only second of his five major symphonies but published last. Written when the composer was only 20, it’s not a masterpiece of the level of his more popular third (“Scottish”) and fourth symphonies “Italian”).
Still, count on Laredo and the VSO to bring out the sheer beauty of this work. Laredo, who has an affinity for Mendelssohn, in particular, delivered the deep and haunting lyricism of the slow movement, Andante. The final movement, Allegro maestoso, reveled in the joy of the Protestant hymn upon which it was based. Although not perfect, it was a compelling performance.
Vermont Symphony Orchestra
The Vermont Symphony Orchestra will perform Mozart’s Symphony No. 40, plus works of J.S. Bach, Phillip Glass and David Ludwig, with Jaime Laredo, conductor and violin; Jennifer Koh, violin; and Vinay Parameswaran, guest conductor: at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 9, at Burlington’s Flynn Center; and at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 10, at Rutland’s Paramount Theatre. For tickets or information, call 864-5741, ext. 10, or go online to www.vso.org.