RIDGEFIELD SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA – Saturday, April 6, 2013
Reviewed by Courtenay Caublé
Billed as “Symphonie Espagnole” and replete with the aurally enticing intermingling of lyricism and rhythm of “Spanish” music by composers who weren’t Spanish, last Saturday evening’s performance by the Ridgefield Symphony was arguably the crowning jewel of this season’s classical RSO programs. Maestro Gerald Steichen’s offerings included Emmanuel Chabrier’s Espagña, Alberto Ginastera’s Molambo from Estancia, Ernesto Lecuona’s Andalucia Suite, Maurice Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole, and Édouard Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole, with the young violin virtuoso Chad Hoopes as soloist. In addition, nineteen young dancers from the Ridgefield Civic Ballet provided visual enhancement for the energetic rhythms of Ginastera’s Molambo.
Maestro Steichen and the orchestra were in fine form throughout the evening, but especially in the program’s first half. With its songlike melodies and dancing rhythms enhanced by Steichen’s sensitive control of nuances and balances and by outstanding sectional playing, Chabrier’s Espagňa was a perfect choice to open the program.
The second half was enriched by what has become the RSO’s commendable collaboration with other local arts organizations, including The Ridgefield Guild of Artists, The Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance, and the Ridgefield Civic Ballet. The RCB’s brightly dressed young dancers, along with the lively artwork behind the orchestra, provided a wonderful visual enhancement for the rhythmical Ginastera Molambo, and the inclusion of promising young Western Connecticut Youth Orchestra musicians in the performance (an annual practice that has become yet another commendable way of enhancing this fine organization’s worth in the Ridgefield community) provided another dimension for audience appreciation. This concert’s fine young WCYO performers were violinists Gavin Belok, Tahlia Cott, Natalie Marks, and harpist Dana Tufariello.
Eighteen-year-old violinist Chad Hoopes’s age can’t be cited as an apology for any artistic shortcomings, because he doesn’t have any. His performance of Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole called forth unprecedented applause at the end of each of the concerto’s first three movements and an entirely merited standing ovation (along with multiple bravos) at the end. With excellent support from the orchestra under Maestro Steichen, whose exceptional skill working with soloists, whether vocal or instrumental, has become expected, Chad played with an artistic understanding of the music he was playing that defies argument, a corresponding and sensitive control of nuances, articulation and phrasing, flawless intonation, and a technical mastery that brought it all together. He had obviously made Lalo’s music his own and was therefore able not just to play it, but to communicate its essence as well. One of my knowledgeable guests at the concert commented that she would go “just about anywhere” to hear him play again, and I think that I would too.