By. T. Stephen Wager • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
Maestro Maciej Zoltowski made a triumphant return to Oneonta on November 20, 2021 with a concert of Wind Serenades by Mozart, Dvořák and Richard Strauss. It is a completely fortunate situation that so glamorous and cosmopolite a musical personality such as Maestro Zoltowski has come to grace Catskill Symphony Orchestra and Upstate New York. In just two years’ time, his efforts of international renown at orchestra building have already been shown to great effect. The concert provided a vehicle showcasing the woodwind section of Catskill Symphony Orchestra in its second offering of the 2021-2022 concert season. Preparation for such a concert requires not only daring but knowing the capabilities of the orchestra at hand, and capabilities of its individual members, and a knowledge of the repertoire that balances one work with the other.
Mozart’s Wind Serenade in E flat major, KV 375 is a sublime work. Included, and rare for Mozart, are two Menuettos and Trios, the second providing a delightful and guileless Ländler. The other three movements could also be considered as slow Romanze notable for richly variegated textures and an exuberant rondo with two episodes. The Serenade, while well-known, is rarely encountered in today’s concert halls. There was not one of those richly variegated textures Maestro Zoltowski allowed to escape detailed attention while always and effortlessly controlling the difficult balances inherent in Mozart’s sonorities.
Richard Strauss’ Wind Serenade in E flat major, Op 7 for thirteen instruments was composed in 1881. In true style of the prodigy, Strauss by 1881 had already published several works which included a string quartet and a full-length symphony. The new work, however, is more than a facile imitation of works for wind by Mendelssohn or Mozart or any other of the forgotten Munich Court composers of that day. The work easily displays the achingly, sublimely beautiful melodies for which Strauss was to become world famous; melodies that, like Beethoven before him, could literally bring time to a temporary halt. The work obviously has deep meaning for Maestro Zoltowski. The balance of wind instruments in this particular work, which can be exceedingly difficult to bring about, resulted in what seemed to simply fulfill his every musical desire including an easy response to all the beautiful melodies Strauss gave him.
The final offering of the evening came with the delightful Wind Serenade, Op 44 by Antonín Dvořák. The work is written for two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, a contrabassoon and three horns; the composer later adding parts for one cello and one double-bass. An aristocratic work, it is composed in a Slavonic style though never actually directly quoting any folksongs, while the second movement contains dances reminiscent of a furiant. Maestro Zoltowski displayed a keen and deep affinity for Dvořák’s early masterpiece. Especially satisfying was the way the lower instruments, sounding as one, responded so naturally to their Maestro’s will. This was a cunning performance in that the balances throughout the performance of crescendi to piannisimi effects all blended perfectly to create a sonority that can only be described as something truly Dvořák. A great contribution to this “sonority” was provided by Principal Cellist Janet Nepkie, who received an ovation on her entrance certainly by an audience anticipating the musical beauties for which she has become so treasured.
Catskill Symphony Orchestra would do well to take care of the rare asset they have in Maestro Maciej Zoltowski. Very few orchestras in the land are graced with the rare intuitive abilities he so easily renders in terms of what is required by any composer. The entire Upstate New York region should breathlessly anticipate future performances of such enlightening beauty.