Had enough of eardrum-busting big-band stuff and the neurotic mood swings of Mahler? Opera overload getting you down? Want more than the cozy intimacy of Dock Street? Or do you just need something worthwhile to do in between them all? Your best bet may well be the ever-popular Intermezzi Series, with its usual well-chosen mix of ear-boggling solo recitals, larger chamber delights, and assorted tidbits for smaller orchestra. No program runs much over an hour. Hope you’re not tired of Mozart yet.
The May 28 series opener takes us backward from the 20th century’s avant-garde Viennese school to its 18th-century alter ego. For some, Anton Webern’s Op. 21 Symphony will get the modern stuff out of the way first. Others will hear it for the subtly-crafted marvel of 12-tone symmetry it is. Next comes Mozart’s bubbly and lyrical Clarinet Concerto, the last concerto he wrote — and the first great work of its kind. Ending the concert with a flourish will be the young Beethoven’s sparkling Symphony No. 1, a “comedy of manners” that pokes potent fun at its own classical-era style. Marc Williams will conduct, with Amitai Vardi on solo clarinet.
Second time around (May 29), we get a sweet lesson on the evolution of the classical-era piano concerto. Festival regular Andrew von Oeyen, one of America’s young lions of the piano, will do double duty as soloist and conductor. First you’ll enjoy Josef Haydn’s amiable and brilliant Concerto in D Major, H 18/11. Then you’ll get to hear how Mozart took his older friend’s work to the next level, perfecting a form that soon became all the rage. His Piano Concerto in A Major (No. 23 of 27) is a soulful and brilliant piece that he wrote for his own use.
Get ready for some radical piano pyrotechnics on June 1, courtesy of Olivier Reboul, who has dazzled us here before. Franz Liszt was both his era’s top pianist and most prolific keyboard composer. He also had a sure knack for picking out the best melodies from the fave operas of the day and transcribing them into knuckle-busting showpieces that only he could play. Enthralled women used to soak their hankies and swoon when Liszt played this stuff — let’s hope the Grace Church crowd will be more dignified when Reboul takes on some of the best of it here. Maybe the more elegant and refined (but just as difficult) strains of Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit that ends the recital will maintain public calm.
A promising Mozart-themed concert is in store on June 4, contrasting the music of the master with some modern pieces that he inspired. Leading modern composer Michael Nyman — known mainly for his film work — will be heard in two numbers that do homage to the birthday hero. There’s a link to you-know-what in his In Re. Don Giovanni; hearing how he makes the connections should be fun. Then we’ll get the chance to explore an even darker side of the composer, as we compare his own Masonic Funeral Music with Nyman’s short piece for soprano and chamber players, Mozart on Mortality. Two very new works round things out: Lawrence Dillon’s Amadeus ex Machina and Alexander Raskatov’s Five Minutes from the Life of W.A.M. John Kennedy, director of the Music in Time series, will conduct.
Then, on June 5, comes the series’ only vocal recital -— with baritone Keith Phares and mezzo-soprano Patricia Risley offering a program of French art songs and duets. Here’s a prime example of how musicians busy with main events all over the festival do double duty in this series. Phares sings one of the lead roles in the big Mozart opera, and Risley does likewise in Roméo et Juliette.
The final concert, on June 9, is an eclectic array of pieces written mostly for various woodwinds. We’ll hear Oiseaux Exotiques — Olivier Messiaen’s eerie evocation of assorted birdcalls — for piano, winds, and percussion. Then comes the Petite Symphonie for Winds by our magnum opera composer Charles Gounod plus Igor Stravinsky’s Octet for Wind Instruments. Messrs. Williams, Kennedy, and Reboul will share conducting duties, and modern music specialist Jenny Lin will preside at the piano.
Most of the instrumentalists you’ll hear in these concerts are members of our valiant Spoleto Festival Orchestra. Make no mistake, they’re the cream of the world’s young orchestral musicians, destined to be the major first-chair players and soloists of tomorrow. For about a month, they’re no doubt the hardest-working orchestra in America, and they never get the full credit they deserve. Their grueling schedule of rehearsals and performances covers just about every major Spoleto event and series. Try not to take them for granted this year.
INTERMEZZI SERIES • Spoleto Festival USA • $25 • May 28, 29; June 1, 4, 5, 9 at 5 p.m. • 1 hour • Grace Episcopal Church, 98 Wentworth St. • 579-3100
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