The ASO presented a concert combining great new music and wonderful classic music. The conductor was Rossen Milanov (http://www.naxos.com/person/Rossen_Milanov/30801.htm), who is associate conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the violin soloist was Nadja Solerno-Sonnenberg (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nadja_Salerno-Sonnenberg).
The first piece of music was Golijov’s 1996 last “Round, for string ensemble.” The ASO strings were standing in a semi-circle facing Mr. Milanov. The music reminded me that not all contemporary compositions need to sound like a soundtrack to a movie with a dystopian view of the world. This was lyrical music that also had some surprises. It began with snippets or strings of a theme that were passed almost randomly between the string sections. The snippets strings gradually became integrated into a main theme. The second half of the piece was beautiful and the ASO strings played well and sounded wonderful. I think the string section may be the best that the ASO has to offer. Mr. Milanov conducted with a baton and a score.
Ms. Salerno-Sonnenburg was the soloist for Piazzolla’s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%81stor_Piazzolla) “The Four Season of Buenos Aires”. This piece was composed between 1965 and 1970. The music is always rooted in Piazzolla’s love for the tango and his respect for Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. In fact, Piazzola refers to Vivaldi’s work throughout the four sections of his work. Salerno-Sonnenburg is a well known and technically superior violinist. Of late she has become a music director of her own ensemble. She played this music with such enthusiasm that her foot tapped the rhythm so loudly that it added percussive effects! It was not distracting for me and added a certain flair to her playing. The music is thoroughly enjoyable and difficult, but rewarding, even if one doesn’t like the tango, which I do. Again, Milanov conducted with a baton and a score.
The finale of the concert was Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. For me this is an overly familiar work and has not worn well. But, the ASO presentation changed that. Everything was right, save a few French horn burbles. The program notes, written by Ken Meltzer, used Tchaikovsky’s own writings to explain how depressing and fatalistic the composer was. He was depressed and he translated it to the music. Of course, even more depressing and despairing will be his later Symphony No. 6. In the end, this was a memorable performance for me. Milanov conducted without a score, and it was apparent that he loves this music. He long slender hands seem to wrap themselves around the themes. He gave dynamic signals to the orchestral even while he was caught up in the music. I haven’t seen such heart-felt conducting in some time. Milanov received several curtain calls from the orchestra dn they were well deserved.