'Winter,' builds from the cellos and basses with a clocklike precision that is punctuated by Aldridge’s dazzling bursts of speed....
Erin Aldridge tames ‘The Four Seasons,’ DSSO Chorus takes on Mozart en ‘Mass’
11/12/2016 by Lawrance Bernabo
When it comes to the unusual weather this November, some have wondered how many of the four seasons could we experience this month? For those in attendance at the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra’s concert on Saturday night at the DECC’s Symphony Hall, the answer was all four, courtesy of Antonio Vivaldi and soloist Erin Rochelle Aldridge.
Conductor Dirk Meyer — described this week by one of my students as “the dude with the wand” — urged patrons to follow along with the handout of Vivaldi’s poems for each concerto, telling us, “You will read in the poems what you will hear in the music.”
“Spring” remains my favorite of the quartet, not just because of the famous opening movement, with the delicate interplay between Aldridge and violinist Steve Highland, but because of the other movements as well. The largo was particularly lovely, and the string quartet section of the third was in a similar vein.
The slow and measured construction of “Summer” set up furious little battles between Aldridge and Betsy Husby’s cello and was highlighted by the slow build of the soloist against the gathering storm of strings. The audience refrained from applauding, but there were clear murmurs of approval.
The harpsichord figured most prominent in “Fall,” which is the concerto that makes it clear Vivaldi’s seasons are defined indirectly by weather and more prominently by agricultural endeavors.
“Winter,” builds from the cellos and bases with a clocklike precision that is punctuated by Aldridge’s dazzling bursts of speed. I always think I hear the opening “Spring” motif deconstructed and buried in the final movement, hinting at its inevitable return, although the interplay between Aldridge and Husby managed to make the “Winter” seem not so cold.
Having a hometown soloist was a treat. Aldridge stood farther back and closer to the conductor than any soloist of recent memory, and afterwards there were hugs and handshakes for the DSSO’s other principals as the waves of applause washed over one and all. It was a lovely moment.
After the intermission the rest of the symphony joined their string siblings and the DSSO Chorus for Mozart’s “Requiem Mass,” with the slow grandeur of its choral opening. Meyer made the horn section more prominent, especially in the “Kyrie,” which was quite effective.
In “Tuba mirum,” Mozart works from bass Andrew Gangestad to tenor Callad Metts, then mezzo-soprano Holly Janz, and soprano Sarah Lawrence. The solo quartet was quite good in “Recordare,” but was absolutely stellar on “Benedictus,” especially Janz and Lawrence.
I found the chorus, under chorusmaster Richard Robbins, especially bold in the opening of “Dies irae.” The gender disparity came into play on “Confutatis”: the power in the bass-baritone range is just not as strong as it is with the alto-sopranos. The latter was evidenced in “Lacrimosa,” where the delicateness of the opening builds to a gorgeous sonic wave.
Meyer and DSSO again prove their mastery of Beethoven 1/23/2016 by Lawrance Bernabo
When the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra announced that its 2015-16 "Gods and Myths" schedule included an "Immortal Beethoven" concert, I immediately penciled in the Third Symphony ("Eroica") for the evening's centerpiece. After last season's triumphant finale with Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, conductor Dirk Meyer again showcased his ability to bring Beethoven's music to life at the DECC's Symphony Hall on Saturday night.
"Eroica" (Opus 55) and the Triple Concerto (Opus 56) taken together mark the beginning of the Romantic period in classical music and the point where Ludwig van Beethoven becomes the Immortal Beethoven. The evening began with the "Prometheus" Overture (Opus 43), a nice little curtain opener combining Beethoven's love of energy and dissonance, and representing his chrysalis stage to give us a sense of the composer's great leap forward.
The Triple Concert featured violinist Erin Aldridge, cellist Betsy Husby, and guest pianist Christopher Atzinger as the soloists. Meyer brought a lighter touch to this piece, with the sweetness of Husby's cello giving the piece its principal charm. Accordingly, Atzinger brought a deft, light touch to the piano and Aldridge's violin provided periodic sparks of flame.
There was a real sense of communion rather than competition between the soloists, and the rotating combinations of pairs was significantly more interesting than the times when all three played at once, especially during the Allegro. The audience was especially appreciative getting to hear two of the DSSO's principals out front as soloists.
Beethoven famously revoked the dedication, but the "Eroica" Symphony certainly embodies Napoleon's dictum, "L'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace." The opening movement alone is almost as long as the typical Classical period symphony, the development and coda expanded to be on a par with the exposition and recapitulation.
Meyer heighted the interplay between flute and clarinet in that first movement, and brought a slight but significant exaggeration to the syncopation of the brass and strings.
The second movement was the evening's highlight, with Meyer at his most innovative in making us hear the music with new ears. The emphasis was more on the funeral sense of the music than on the march aspects, especially as the theme dissolved from violas to violins to cellos to basses, before rising majestically. Again, Meyer played up the syncopation elements of the final section.
The orchestra found additional opportunities to explore the dynamics in the third movement scherzo, with the horns playing a more prominent role. During the finale it popped into my head that Meyer was bringing modern music sensibilities to this first piece of the Romantic era, underscoring the idea of the Innovative Beethoven.
Orchestra layers the power of strings in focused concert 6/2006 by Samuel Black
... This wonderfully rich concert was not over. Argentine master Astor Piazzolla created an imitation of Vivaldi in his "Four Seasons of Buenos Aires." Guest violinist Erin Aldridge, concertmaster of the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra, gave a dazzling display of bowing technique. In each of these movements her precise and subtle shadings were mesmerizing. In the autumn section, cellist Becky Peterson offered a dramatic counter melody that was full of passion as well. But the confident variety of Aldridge's use of the bow was worth the entire evening. ...