Symphony in C has certainly progressed since their Presser Foundation Anniversary Concert at the Philadelphia Perelman Center in March 2016. Stilian Kirov had just taken over as Music Director in 2015. Four years later, this professional training orchestra sounds much more polished.
The first piece of the concert, Symphony No. 6 in D minor (La Casa del Diavolo) by Luigi Boccherini showed the control of the wonderful string section led in this performance by the very talented concertmaster Agnes Tse. The bassoon playing by Emeline Chong rounded out the cello and bass sounds and horns Eric Huckins and Bryn Coveney played with smooth delicacy. The start of the andantino seemed a little wobbly, but was quickly recaptured. The sound profited from an excellent viola section led by principal violist Caeli Smith. Maestro Kirov, a brilliant pianist, is still demanding less of the phrasing possibilities his excellent string Stplayers might deliver.
For Joaquin Rodrigo’s challenging Fantasia para un gentilhombre for guitar and orchestra, the two microphones directed on the guitar sounded extremely loud, making the guitar exceed the orchestra in volume at times. Mr. Vieaux kept adjusting one mike as he played a masterful rendition of this technically challenging piece, which, with everything his fingers had to play, was quite a feat of physical coordination. Because of the faulty amplification, the guitar sound blasted forth in the opening of the Danza de las Hachas. In spite of those technical problems, Mr. Vieaux’s mastery of the guitar was truly impressive and his ability to play extremely fast scales with ease and accuracy was a delight. The ensemble of guitar with piccolo, flute, bassoon, oboe, and trumpet worked well. Paul Futer’s delicate trumpet playing was subtle and light. The strings managed to float to a whisper at the end of the Española y Toques de la caballeria de Nápoles. In the final movement, the Canario, Mr. Vieaux played with brilliant virtuosity.
In a puzzling digression, the program notes on the Rodrigo described the James Galway flute transcription.
The orchestra showed beautiful shading and variation of tone color in the Lucas Drew arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s string sextet, Souvenirs de Florence. The all-string ensemble was arranged into the six parts, and Mr. Kirov led them in wonderful unison playing, with melodic passages soaring over pizzicato playing. The adagio also featured stunning solos by Agnes Tse, violin and Yoni Draiblate, cello. The fourth movement, allegro vivace, had the energy and drive of a melodious Slavic sleigh ride and was played crisply and clearly, sending us scurrying out into the cold January night.
[January 26, 2019 at 8:00 p.m. at the Walter K. Gordon Theater, Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts, 314 Linden Street, Camden, New Jersey]