ROBERTO DIAZ (5-6-06) 

By Lawrence Budmen 

Almost a century after Jean Sibelius composed his Symphony No.4 in A Minor, the score remains one of the Finnish masterís most enigmatic creations. The music is darkly ruminative and brooding. A ray of light breaks through the musical darkness; only to be extinguished by massive salvos of brass in the depths of the instrumentsí lowest register. 

At the New World Symphonyís concluding concert of the season on Saturday, Michael Tilson Thomas brought musical order to the bleak chaos of this disturbing masterpiece.

Conducting without a baton, Tilson Thomas elicited bold accents and stunning precision from his ace instrumentalists. The agitated, shimmering string figuration in the first movement moved with piercing urgency. Despite Sibeliusís murky orchestration, inner voices emerged with stunning clarity.

Daniel Thomas played a warmly beautiful cello solo that introduced the workís spare thematic motif. In the midst of the scoreís bleak tonal portraits, Dustin Budishís virtuosic viola solo was a bracing sunburst. The composerís trademark blocks of sound had granite like solidity. 

Katie Youngís light oboe tones introduced the sprightly dance theme of the second movement. Tilson Thomasís intense traversal of the Largo captured the musicís tragic cast. In the exhilarating finale, the glowing warmth of Stephanie Wernliís clarinet soared above the pensive orchestral texture. Biting brass and percussive crescendos had terrific impact and the Lincoln Theaterís problematical acoustics became live and vibrant. 

In Glinkaís rousing Overture to Russlan and Ludmilla, Tilson Thomas drew massive, resonant tone from the cello section. The conductor brought textural transparency and attention to subtle instrumental details in this curtain raiser. 

Richard Straussís Don Quixote was given cinematic treatment with invigorating, characterful playing. Highly colorful wind timbres charged through the ensemble with rippling finesse. The performance lacked the lush, sumptuous string sound that is quintessential Strauss.

Cellist Carter Brey (from the New York Philharmonic) brought rich tone, extraordinary musicality, and nobility of line to the bejeweled solo part. Violist Roberto Diaz exhibited classical restraint. The lovely, finely spun sound of concertmaster Daniel Carlson matched them at every turn. 

Straussís witty score was the perfect conclusion to an audacious New World Symphony season.

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