Joel Rosenberg and the American West Symphony gave their audience an evening of memorable music-making Friday. The orchestra consists of some very fine and talented musicians led by an excellent conductor. Rosenberg got a subtle, nuanced performance out of these musicians, with well-defined phrasing and a fine balance among the various sections of the orchestra.
The concert was made even more memorable by a very special performance of the first movement of J.S. Bach's Concerto in D minor for Two Violins. The two solo parts were performed by nine young violinists who were selected to perform at these concerts through competitive auditions. These soloists are all from Sandy, as is the American West Symphony, and they did a credible job performing this rather difficult piece of music.Five of the violinists played the first solo part, and the remaining four were on the second part. They all sounded well together, in spite of a few problems with intonation, but they are promising performers who should be proud of the fine performance they gave. It was a delight to see them play with the orchestra.
Also on the program was Beethoven's incomparable Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major ("Emperor") with Ning An as soloist. Ning, who now studies at the New England Conservatory of Music under Russell Sherman, lived in Utah for a number of years, studying piano with Gladys Gladstone. He displayed an impressive command of his instrument. Ning also exhibited refined play and a sensitivity to the dynamics that gave this concerto depth and meaning. One would definitely like to see more of him here in the future.
Rosenberg and the orchestra accompanied Ning with flexibility and refinement that was almost intuitive. The orchestra sounded magnificent in this majestic work.
Special mention must be made of the slow second movement. The unadorned yet captivating melody was played with an understated simplicity by both soloist and orchestra that made this movement sound all the more beautiful.
The finale, which follows the slow movement without a break, was also noteworthy. The robustness of the music of this movement was played with a zeal, especially by Ning, that truly made this movement stand out.
The final work on the program was Dmitri Shostakovich's "Overture Festivo," op. 96. This piece highlighted the brass players, and they did an outstanding job. They were just tremendous, as was the rest of the orchestra, too. This lively overture gave the orchestra a chance to show what a top-notch group of musicians the American West Orchestra really is.
This is a very lighthearted piece, vivacious and playful, with none of the heavy Russian moodiness associated with much of Shostakovich's music.
This was a great program that Rosenberg put together. It was varied, well-played and utterly captivating. And the concert was made especially delightful by the evening's soloists.