Act of Sedation
The Santa Cruz County Symphony conveys the subtle intricacies in Beethoven's Sixth, while Marc Teicholz gives a mixed performance
By Scott MacClelland
Unlike the ever-impatient Mozart, Beethoven would often revert back to the excessive repetitions of the earlier classical style. Despite his own huge innovations, Beethoven could simultaneously tinker with repeating patterns; witness particularly his Sixth and Seventh symphonies. An opportunity to do so came up Saturday night when Larry Granger's Santa Cruz Symphony played the Sixth, well known as the Pastoral, presenting the audience with movement after movement of seemingly incessant repetitions.
If that were all there is, however, the Pastoral wouldn't remain the audience favorite that it is, and this audience got a top-notch presentation by an orchestra that--in its 49th season--once again did itself proud. Take, for example, the second movement, which the composer subtitled "Scene by the Brook." Murmuring birds and the 12/8 flow of the water--a lullaby in another context--not only lulled some listeners off to dreamland, but was only really interrupted by edgy chirps on the clarinet near the end--10 minutes of bucolic musings on what, superficially, sounded like the same thing. Only it wasn't; the perspicacious ear savored Beethoven's continual redistributing of his original material, both compositionally and orchestrally. This was Haydn's Surprise Symphony without any surprises, a tongue-in-cheek sedation that challenges the inattentive. By the way, you could see the humor in the grins on the musicians' faces.
As is typical, Granger conducted from memory, and, no less typically, got excellent results throughout the 45-minute reading, constantly attending to balance, dynamics and phrasing. That's knowing the score plus how to interpret it in his own way, the very things one expects from a conductor.
The promised concerto for two clarinets by Krommer has been deferred to another season (after multiple errors in the edition are corrected, Granger told the audience). In its place, guitarist Marc Teicholz played Joaquín Rodrigo's popular Concierto de Aranjuez. This is a flimsy score that depends hugely on a soloist to "sell" it to an audience. It demands unflagging personal flair and rhythmic exactitude to accomplish this in the famous adagio, while the outer two movements pretty much dance along on the orchestra. Teicholz, who has played before in Aptos, was not in his best form here, sounding as if he needed some more prep time for the occasion. This impression was only reinforced by the mastery with which he deported his one encore, Tárrega's excellent Capricho Arabe. (Teicholz was amplified to give his instrument a fighting chance at the Santa Cruz Civic, and nicely extended his luscious tone.) Orchestral solos, notably Diane Machado-Wyant's cor anglais in the adagio, blossomed expressively in their space.
Granger opened his program with the overture from Emil von Reznicek's comic opera Donna Diana, a tricky, transparent orchestral showpiece that set a jovial tone for the evening and warmed up the room with its sparkle. The piece makes one want to hear more from this contemporary of Mahler, but, alas, little else has survived export from his native Austria.
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