Music Review: VSO offers delectable delights
By Jim Lowe
Staff Writer | September 22,2013
Jim Lowe / Staff photo
Vermont Symphony Orchestra principal oboist Nancy Dimock and music director and violinist Jaime Laredo perform Friday at Johnson State College.
The Vermont Symphony Orchestra opened its annual statewide tour with a delectable confection of music that showcased many of its principal players, as well as a fine Vermont composer.
Music director Jaime Laredo led the opening concert of the “Made in Vermont” Music Festival tour that takes the abbreviated VSO — 28 strong — to eight locations throughout the state.
The highlight of Friday’s performance at Johnson State College’s Dibden Center for the Arts was the premiere of Andrew Massey’s “Vermont Spring,” commissioned by the VSO for the tour. At less than 10 minutes, the short tone poem uses contemporary harmonic language in a most colorful and accessible way to take the listeners through Vermont’s not-so-pastoral spring season.
“Vermont Spring” is program music in that it tells a story graphically — featuring “Cabin Fever,” Mud Season,” “Maple Syrup and Frost Heaves,” and finally a little fugue of “Woodland Creatures” — but it stands alone as a rewarding and beautiful piece of abstract music.
Massey, a British-born, world-traveling conductor best known here as music director of the Middlebury College Orchestra, proved a fine craftsman with a flair for drama and color. The VSO, under Laredo, achieved the work in full.
VSO principal flutist Albert Brouwer delivered a particularly fine performance of Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 2 in D Major, K.314. Although he didn’t focus on the work’s beautiful lyricism, Brouwer, with his light sound, played with rhythmic incisiveness and rapid-fire articulation, making for an exciting performance. Laredo and members of the VSO matched him all the way.
A more obscure work, an attractive and jazzy 20th-century one, Burrill Phillips’ Concert Piece for Bassoon and Strings, showcased both the virtuosity and excellent musicianship of Janet Polk, the VSO’s principal. More beautiful, though, was the solo Etude by Melvin Solomon that she played as an encore.
An unusual work by Vivaldi, “La Tempesta di Mara,” featured three woodwind soloists, the aforementioned Brouwer, Polk and principal oboist Nancy Dimock. Brilliant and fun describes the music as it does the performance.
Still, the most exquisite moment in Friday’s concert was the Adagio from J.S. Bach’s Concerto for Oboe and Violin in c minor. Dimock and Laredo, on solo violin, played with a deep expressiveness that went straight to the heart. The outer movements were brilliantly played by both soloists as well, backed by the VSO strings.
VSO’s “Made in Vermont” Music Festival tour is a wonderful opportunity to hear the high quality of the state’s orchestra, many thanks to Laredo, in an intimate way. And it’s only 90 minutes long.