Reviews ...

Stunning cellist fills Memorial Hall

... outstanding new concerto in MSO concert

by Jackie Wattenberg

Conductor Yoichi Udagawa continues to amaze by the variety and quality of his
Melrose Symphony Orchestra concerts.

Last Saturday evening (March 9) he brought a new concerto he had arranged with
composer Charles Floyd for cello and orchestra, especially with cellist Owen Young
in mind. Another full house and standing ovation expressed our city's respect and
enjoyment of Yoichi's musical persona.

A new composition is always exciting to meet, and this concerto was the piece de
resistance of the evening, gratifying due to the performance of Boston Symphony
Orchestra cellist Owen Young. But the entire concert was notable from the dynamic,
well-balanced rendering of the Overture to "Fidelio" by Beethoven, which opened the
program, through the closing, reinvigorated New World Symphony by Dvorak in just
about the most spirited interpretation this writer has ever heard.

As is his custom, Udagawa took time to introduce the audience to the new concerto,
both orchestral and cellist sections, including something he had asked the composer
for -- inclusion of a Negro spiritual. So many beautiful spirituals, and the one
chosen was unfamiliar, "A City Called Heaven," a gentle, peaceful melody.

Mr. Young played it throughout the cencerto in a lovely legato tone that was always
assured and expressive. Some in the audience felt the concerto "too modern" for
them, but it was hardly Stravinsky.

It flowed in its one-long-movement form with Impressionist ease and color, always
aware that the cello cannot offer a powerful tone over an orchestral fortissimo.

Each time the cellist had extensive solo parts, the orchestra softened respectfully
and inventively, only later bursting forth with striking form or a sort of rippling
charm. It impressed with its distinctive originality in modal minor key, intriguing
in its development. There is no more beautiful instrument than the cello, and we can
hope for a return visit of a musician who expresses the beauty of his instrument
with such warmth, ease and sensitivity.

The Dvorak New World Symphony, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra,
was composed here when Dvorak became director of the the National Conservatory of
Music in New York. Great program notes detailed his life and works with colorful
detail, including many of his own words.

Dvorak was interested in Indian and Negro music and culture, one section of the
symphony representing the wedding of Longfellow's "Hiawatha."

This popular symphony seems to be scheduled at least once a month on one of our
classical music stations, and has grown rather tiresome to this listener. But Yoichi
Udagawa gave the work a compelling freshness and spirit -- unflagging tempos, sharp
accents and effective rhythmic response to each new section or melody. A few
orchestral slip-ups here and there probably indicated that most of rehearsal time
was devoted to the new concerto.

A special program this year will take place on Sunday, April 1, at 3 p.m.,
especially geared toward children -- high-lighting Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf."
Also included will be a movement from Beethoven's popular Fifth Symphony and an
Allegro from Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusic," a Little Night Music.

This should delight parents and bring them with children into Memorial Hall that

Reprinted, with permission from the Melrose Free Press, March 8,

April 6, 2012

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