Russian music in Ridgefield

Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra Concert – Saturday, April 6, 2002
Review By James Pegolotti – Danbury NewsTimes


Musically speaking, the Russians invaded Ridgefield Saturday, with Maestro Sidney Rothstein leading the Ridgefield Sym phony in a program of 20th century Russian music. The orchestra’s final concert of the season was dedicated to the memory of Joseph P. Dailey, a longtime member of the orchestra board and former president, who died this month. He would have been proud of the performance.
Aram Khachaturian’s “Aegina Variation” from the ballet “Spartacus,” (1954) provided an exuberant overture. The composer transformed the initial pleasant waltz tune into a march, with jarring rhythmic accents. It was all over in four minutes.
Then Andrew Armstrong young, slender, curly haired appeared as the soloist in Serge Prokofiev’s “Piano Concerto No. 3,” a 20th century masterpiece, both bombastic and lyrical. The concerto, completed and premiered in 1921, is symmetrically constructed, each of the three movements about nine minutes long.
Armstrong’s performance was exemplary. When the chords should crash, they did; when the sounds were to be limpidly melodic, they were. He was also impressive in the clarity of the piano’s chromatic segments that moved fluidly under the orchestra. Rothstein saw to it that the orchestra gave its total attention to the task at hand. The attacks were crisp, and transitions from one rhythmic pattern to another went smoothly.
Prokofiev knew how to bring an audience’s blood to the boiling point. In both the first and third movements, the lyrical centerpieces quickly transform into a headlong rush to a crashing conclusion. The orchestra and pianist made these endings happen perfectly, creating spontaneous applause in both cases.
The second half of the concert began with Khachaturian’s spirited “Sabre Dance.” The conductor was Richard Jabara, successful bidder for the Golden ‘Baton (or “So You Want To Lead a Band”) appearance with the orchestra. He conducted ebulliently. Should Mr. Jabara choose to forsake his current profession for that of a baton thruster he will most likely become a member of the Leonard Bernstein Kinetic School of Conducting.
Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Symphony No. 2” brought the concert to an end. First performed in 1908 the symphony is full of the emotions of its composer, who wrote it after emerging from a severe depression, helped by therapy and hypnosis.
From the first movement’s gloomy beginnings arose several forceful climaxes, developed firmly and astutely by the conductor. Sufficient cellos and basses provided that all-important Russian dark underpining.
A great variety of tone color glowed in the vigorous second movement – from horns to woodwinds to glockenspiel. This contrasted effectively with the melancholy third movement, featuring one of Rachmaninoff’s most beautiful themes. The movement drifted away to silence, a diminuentdo effect beautifully achieved.
The orchestra launched passionately into the fourth movement, with its tarantella-like rhytm. The musical tension was maintanined through to the swirling endiing, with its emphatic “tump ta-ta-tump” chords that are a Rachmaninoff signature.
Maestro Rothstein, spare in his movements on the podium, had clearly prepared the orchestra well. For example, throughout the symphony, instrumental choirs maintained balance, even in the fortissimo passages. Kudos to the Ridgefield Symphony for a performance that would have made Rachmaninoff wonder why he was ever depressed.

Related Reviews:
Review of this concert by Courtenay Caublé