CONCERT ASSOCIATION OF FLORIDA
ORPHEUS CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
ORPHEUS PRECISE WITH SCHUMANN
By Lawrence Budmen
Founded some 35 years ago, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is a conductorless ensemble that attempts to bring the chamber music aesthetic to orchestral performance. On Wednesday at the Broward Center (courtesy of the Concert Association of Florida), Orpheus displayed precise ensemble and idiomatic musicality in scores by Robert Schumann.
Schumannís Overture, Scherzo and Finale is a symphony in everything but name. Orpheus took that premise one step further by adding a slow movement crafted by composer Paul Chihara from themes in Schumanní s Kinderszenen (Chilhood Dreams). Best known for his scores for ballet (The Tempest) and film (Prince of the City, Crossing Delancey), Chihara has given these richly romantic motifs Technicolor treatment, basking in the afterglow of Schumannís gift for endless song.
While this work is usually played by larger instrumental forces, the Orpheus players brought greater transparency, clarity and definition to Schumannís inner voicings. The insistent dotted rhythm of the Scherzo was tautly projected and the Finale emerged properly grand and rousing, Chiharaís lyrical synthesis providing a perfect transition.
Christian Zacharias was an imposing soloist in Schumanní s Piano Concerto in A minor. A winner of the Cliburn and Ravel competitions, Zacharias combines the modernist sensibility for flawless keyboard dexterity with the romantic penchant for striking interpretive gestures. He summoned crisp agility for the opening Allegro, attacking the cadenza with crackling bravura. Bursts of multi-hued, bell like coloration adorned the lyrical Intermezzo. Zachariasí wonderful gradations of dynamics enlivened the Allegro vivace finale, shaped with the suave elegance of Chopin. Orpheus offered fiery support, with Matthew Dineí s plaintively beautiful oboe solos were standouts amid a first rate ensemble performance.
Orpheus has commissioned six composers to write scores for the New Brandenburgs Project, a contemporary gloss on Bachís famous concertos. The program opened with the Brandenburg Concerto No.3 in G Major. Some untidy ensemble compromised the opening Allegro but the concluding Gigue was realized with vivacious energy by nine string players and the efficient harpsichordist Paolo Bordignon.
The premiere of Muse by Christopher Theofanidis marked the second of the Brandenburg commissions. Theofanidis, a skilled orchestral composer, has created a pleasant, lightweight essay in 18th century concerto-grosso form that lacks the substance of works in that genre by Bloch and Martinu. While Theofanidisí motoric syncopations tend to wear thin, the players dazzled in the scoreís brilliant pyrotechnics and lush string textures.