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Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra Concert – Saturday, October 26, 2002
Review By Howard Tuvelle – Danbury NewsTimes
Nov. 11, 2002

The Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra presented its first concert of the season Saturday, Oct. 26, in the Anne S. Richardson Auditorium at Ridgefield High School.

In his seventh season, conductor Maestro Sidney Rothstein and orchestra presented a program of varied “Romantic” music that included works by Richard Wagner, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Giuseppe Martucci and Ottorino Respighi. Except for Wagner, all these composers lived well into the 20th century and their music pointed in that direction.

The featured guest artist was the young pianist Emi Nakajima, who performed Rachmaninoff “Concerto No. 1.”

Maestro Rothstein opened the program with Wagner’s “Prelude &Liebestod,” from his opera “Tristan &Isolde.” This is “love” music, sensitive and passionate, full of longing-to-be-fulfilled tensions which gradually unfold from the beginning of the work to the end.

It requires careful pacing of dynamics by the conductor, and Rothstein built the music to its ultimate climax with resplendent success.

The Rachmaninoff concerto brought the program to its intermission. The soloist, Emi Nakajima, is a native of Philadelphia. She made her debut with that city’s orchestra at the age of 11, ultimately graduating from the Curtis Institute of Music, also in Philadelphia. Her performance of this challenging concerto was first and foremost musical rather than “flash,” or “display.” With carefully molded nuances and flawless technique, she gave the piece a song-like lyricism. Especially enchanting was the second movement and the piano’s dialogue with the flute, which occurred throughout the third movement as well.

Credit must be given to Keri Walker, the orchestra’s principle flutist.

Of the more dramatic and dashing displays of the composer’s writing (he was a brilliant pianist), Nakajima attacked them with all the vigor and excitement required. Her tone was never harsh or abrasive, although there are some who might have wished for more “animal” virility in some passages. With shouts of bravo from the audience, they presented her with two bouquets of roses and called for many bows.

It would have been nice if Nakajima’s exciting performance had ended the concert, but there were more treats to come.

Martucci’s “Notturno” might be described as a mood composition, containing influences of such composers as Schumann and Chopin. Particularly notable was a cello solo by John Voss, as well as a trumpet solo by John Charles Thomas, both principles.

The concluding work, “The Pines of Rome,” by Respighi, is in four connected movements that employ the full range of orchestral instruments. The work attempts to describe various aspects of Roman life from locations where Pine trees are prominent.

It is exciting and colorful orchestration with much use of the brass and percussion sections. The melody of the last movement, “Pines of the Appian Way,” had a distinctive American Indian flavor, with its repeated low bass rhythms. Maestro Rothsteiin conducted the work with a no-nonsense approach, never relinquishing his technique to any kind of inflated flamboyance.

It was an outstanding evening of near breathtaking musical satisfaction, and their season has just begun!

Related Reviews:
Review of this concert by Courtenay Caublé