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Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms: Alan Futterman and Gary Dahl (conductors), Tania Rivers-Moore (piano), Amy Boers (organ), LeeAnne Campos (alto), Bremerton Symphony Orchestra and Chorale, Bremerton Performing Arts Center, Bremerton, WA, 23.10.2010 (BJ)


Beginning his second season as the Bremerton Symphony’s music director, Alan Futterman took the opportunity to introduce his audience to a young local pianist of clearly star potential. More of that in a moment.

Billed somewhat speculatively as a “Sacred Suite,” the evening’s opening assemblage of pieces by Bach curiously juxtaposed an orchestral movement with vocal excerpts from both German- and Latin-language works. The Sinfonia from Cantata No. 29, Wir danken dir, Gott, which featured a fluent obbligato from organist Amy Boers, found the orchestra in less than its best form—but the music may have been partly to blame for that. This is one of those pieces that go to confirm my (admittedly minority) view that Bach could at times be a dull dog, since very little of any musical consequence happens in it. A movement from the Easter Oratorio and three choruses from the Magnificat brought more of interest; they were well sung by the orchestra’s Chorale, whose director, LeeAnne Campos, also contributed a rich-toned and precisely enunciated if not quite idiomatically German-sounding performance of “Vergiß es ferner nicht” from Cantata No. 29.

By the time we reached the program’s main work, Brahms’s Second Symphony, the orchestra too was much more in the vein. Ensemble was mostly clean. There was some admirably well-tuned and caressing phrases from the violins; the horns, led by Valerie Behring, coped creditably with their formidable assignment; and the other sections all did their part splendidly.

The omission of the exposition repeat damages the proportions of the first movement somewhat, but I suppose it’s an understandable nod to reality when a community orchestra tackles such a taxing work. In any case, I enjoyed Futterman’s affectionate phrasing and his stylistically apt flexibility of tempo—until he perpetrated an undignified (if I were a less kind-hearted critic, I might even have said “vulgar”) burst of speed at the very end. (The Maestro will probably be offended by this judgement. But if he cares to listen to the vastly greater excitement Jascha Horenstein generates, in his classic recording with the Danish Radio Orchestra, by refusing at this point to budge by so much as a smidgen from his basic pulse, I think he may see what I mean.)

In addition to contributing some crisp timpani work to both Bach and Brahms, Gary Dahl, the orchestra’s assistant conductor, stepped onto the podium to lead a well-disciplined and thoroughly convincing performance of a welcome rarity, Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy. It is not one of the master’s greatest masterpieces, but it actually provided the biggest musical satisfaction of the evening. Tania Rivers-Moore, who lives in nearby Bellevue, is only 16 years old, and she apparently learned the work at only a few weeks’ notice, but there was no trace of tentativeness or inexperience in her technically adroit handling of Beethoven’s sprawlingly imaginative solo part. Her phrasing was appropriately free, and the tone she drew from the piano was cultivated and never harsh. Expect to hear much more of this prodigally gifted newcomer.

Bernard Jacobson


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