Winds Concert ‘a Musical Triumph’

Winds Concert ‘a Musical Triumph’

by Karolina Hopper

The recent performances by the Fenimore Chamber Orchestra on October 8 at Christ Church in Cooperstown featured the winds section of the orchestra and revealed some rarely heard and as well as some well-known works.

This balance between the rare and well-known seems already an established norm for this very stylish orchestra.
The beginning of the concert brought two complete rarities. The Italian opera composer Gaetano Donizetti, far better known for his late 37 operas than any of his orchestral pieces, composed his “Sinfonia for Winds” when he was only 17 years old and a student in Bologna.

Donizetti provides his listeners with what was to become typical. That is, easily flowing, romantic—dare we even say
bel canto (“beautiful singing”), melody. The problem with the piece is its brevity. One wishes Donizetti could have developed more of the gorgeous melodies he had devised.

Vicent d’Indy was represented by his “Chanson et Danses.” This work can also be classified as a complete rarity, reminding one, at times, of Wagner’s “Siegfried Idyll.”

The audience was treated to Darius Milhaud’s “Chamber Symphony No. 5,” a mischievously cacophonous and much shorter work. Chromatic layers of individual parts alternately colliding and uniting in unison seem to allude to the grotesque and vibrant world of the famous “Rite of Spring” by Igor Stravinsky. The idea of modality in jazz also seemed to inspire Milhaud.

The jewel of the afternoon was Charles Gounod’s “Petite Symphonie.” Here is another much-loved composer who brought forth very little instrumental music. Very French in style, the melodies are gracious and deceptively easy.

All of these works are difficult, at best, and require the absolute ultimate in instrumental playing. It has become known that each member of Fenimore Chamber Orchestra was specially chosen for their part. This particular aspect of the orchestra was brilliantly on display that afternoon! It was uncanny how each section sounded as if they were one voice.

The intonation was also something in which one could easily revel.

Despite the high level of playing, none of that could matter without someone like Maciej Żółtowski on the podium who gently nurtured and shaped all the nuance required by the music. To say the afternoon was a musical triumph would be understating the case.

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