Orchestral Music Review Print



BMC Orchestra and von Oeyen in a Dynamic Season Finale


Event  Information

Brevard -- ( Sun., Aug. 2, 2015 )

Brevard Music Center: Season Finale - Lockhart Conducts Mahler 1
Performed by The Brevard Music Center Orchestra (Keith Lockhart, artistic director); Andrew von Oeyen, piano
$50-$25; Lawn $15 -- Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium , (828) 862-2105 , http://brevardmusic.org/ -- 3:00 PM

August 2, 2015 - Brevard, NC:


The season finale at Brevard featured artistic director Keith Lockhart and Gustav Mahler's Symphony No.1, a towering work of the symphonic repertoire. As Lockhart said to the audience, Mahler wrote to another composer, "A symphony should be like the world, it must contain everything." Mahler's first movement contains the awakening of spring, birdcalls, off-stage trumpets performing a hunting motif, and much more. The second movement is a rustic ländler (an Austrian and South German dance in ¾ time) evoking happy down-to-earth humanity. The third movement is an unusual funeral march interrupted by an irreverent intrusion, as though some peasants have stomped through a solemn gathering. The finale, Stürmisch bewegt – Energisch (Stormily agitated – Energetic), quotes from the earlier movements as it builds to several feverish climaxes and then, figuratively taking a deep breath, the unison violas carry the orchestra into a final coda.

The Brevard Music Center Orchestra was up to the challenge. Concertmaster William Preucil used his usual body language to influence strings into tight coordination, augmenting the precise conducting of Lockhart. Lockhart, who does not use a baton, instead uses fluid movements of hands, wrists and arms to convey his intentions, and at one point reminded the players to observe a pianissimo with a finger to his lips. Mahler, with his sense of breadth and scope, uses every timbre available to him. The principal bass player has a solo to begin the funeral march, and the violas have their moment in the sun also. In order to "contain everything," Mahler calls for a very large orchestra (eight French horns, for example). While the Brevard Music Center Orchestra mixes faculty and students (faculty in first chairs and mostly students in the string section), on Sunday we saw many students in the brass and woodwind section. Yet the orchestra's level of playing compared favorably with that of all but a few of the very finest professional orchestras. My only regret is that this fine ensemble now vanishes until next June. Its members scatter to the conservatories, universities and orchestras of this country and the rest of the world. We are blessed to experience it for seven weeks a year, and were doubly blessed to hear the Mahler so well performed.

The opening work on Sunday's concert was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat, K. 482 with Andrew von Oeyen as the soloist. This concerto is scored for flute, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, strings, and solo piano. This marks the first use by Mozart of the clarinet, and makes brilliant use of the five woodwinds, at several points being almost a chamber piece for piano and woodwinds.

Some conductors reduce orchestra size for Mozart. I am puzzled by this practice since the composer, in a letter, described his ideal orchestra as having string sections larger than the average modern orchestra. This performance, using the full Brevard Music Center Orchestra, demonstrated that crisp and clear string playing can be obtained with large forces, providing that the musicians are as good as those in this orchestra.

It was my first exposure to pianist von Oeyen, and a happy one. He presented a robust and virile first movement Allegro that matches my vision of the composer. The second-movement Andante (in C minor) gives a sense of introspection as well as great beauty, and von Oeyen provided us with both. The Andante is the soul of the piece. It is no wonder that at a concert shortly after Mozart introduced the piece, the audience demanded that this second movement be repeated. I wanted to call "encore" at this point of this concert, before the robust final Allegro took over. That movement shows clearly that Mozart was simultaneously composing The Marriage of Figaro. You can almost choreograph Count Almaviva apologizing for his boorish behavior in a late section of the concerto. 

Few of Mozart's own cadenzas have survived. For Concerto No. 22, the pianist must choose either to replicate another pianist's choices or to compose his own. Beethoven wrote a cadenza to Concerto No. 20 that some people feel has too much Beethoven in it. David Zinman told me that he once allowed André Tchaikowsky to use material from Bartók's The Miraculous Mandarin in a Mozart cadenza with the Nederlands Kamerorkest (NKO). I believe that cadenzas for Mozart should be brief and should utilize material from the work. No Beethoven; no Bartók. Von Oeyen provided us on Sunday with some of his own cadenzas and Eingänge (the short cadenza-like solo snippets that are sprinkled through the piece). In particular, a third movement cadenza evoked some of the woodwind parts in a manner that I don't recall hearing before. This cadenza was tasteful and appropriate, and matched my desires while stretching my mind.

Each season at the Brevard Music Center, the final concert of the teaching festival is well attended. For this concert, Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium was filled to its 1800-seat capacity and 400 additional people listened from seats on the lawn. Before the music began, Artistic Director Lockhart supervised the drawing of the winning raffle entry for a Mercedes-Benz automobile. As he said, we were about to hear two "marvels of German engineering" so it was appropriate to award another German product to a supporter of scholarships for this fine teaching music festival.