Orchestras accept guest conductors well enough, but Sunday at the Paramount Theatre, James Feddeck and the Vermont Symphony Orchestra embraced each other to a degree that it could be felt in the audience. The intimacy was palpable. (The program was also performed Saturday at Burlington’s Flynn Center.)
The biggest success was Franz Josef Haydn’s 1787 Symphony No. 88 in G Major, delivered as the masterpiece it is. Feddeck’s approach was ideally classical, maintaining the structure but letting the rhythms breathe naturally within it. Haydn’s writing is typically episodic, but the young conductor never lost the dramatic arcs. Instead, he enjoyed the drama and the elegance building to a beautiful grandeur.
Robert Schumann’s 1846 Symphony No. 2 in C Major, Op. 61, proved the real showcase for both conductor and orchestra. This pinnacle of Romanticism is an irresistible blend of colors, lyricism, tenderness and passion, drama and grandeur, Schumann at his best. The challenge is to keep this complex sprawling work together while still making it sing. Feddeck and the VSO did just that.
Feddeck maintained a tight control throughout, yet allowed, even encouraged the natural flow, while the VSO played with clarity, control and deep feeling. The slow movement, Adagio espresso, was intensely lyrical and achingly beautiful. Only a barely perceptible carefulness belied Feddeck’s age. (Still, the reverse would have been a mess.)
This Schumann symphony is incredibly difficult both technically and musically, and Feddeck and the VSO delivered with joy.
The program opened with a spirited performance of Igor Stravinsky’s brilliant 1938 Concerto in E-flat, “Dumbarton Oaks.” A concerto grosso reminiscent of of of Bach’s Brandenburg’s, it was a neo-Baroque showcase, and the reduced members of the VSO played virtuosically, thoroughly enjoying themselves. It was a delight.
Sunday’s concert was one of those special moments when the conductor and the orchestra inspired each other. What a pleasure.