Center Stage: Community Concerts continue to dazzle
The second dazzling Community Concerts presentation featured the Polish Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra led by Maestro Boguslaw Dawidow and featured gifted, multi award winning, violin virtuoso, Jaroslaw Nadrzcki as soloist.
The program consisted of three major works: Richard Wagner’s Overture from the opera “The Flying Dutchman,” the Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 22 by Henryk Wieniawaski, followed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsaiov’s haunting “Scheherazade Symphonic Suite,” Op.35. What was interesting was the Southwest Florida Symphony also featured “Scheherazade” as their finale, the comparison was most interesting, but more about that later.
The Polish Baltic Philharmonic was founded in 1945 right on the heels of Polish independence, and now is the largest music institution in northern Poland. Just a little history and background on this proud institution. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Gdansk held the international spotlight as a point of contention between Germany, a budding, independent Poland, whose proud locals who saw Gdansk as an independent city-state; the crown jewel of the Baltic Sea. The Polish Baltic Philharmonic as it exists today represents an amalgamation of the solidarity and passions that drives such revolutions, thus becoming an expression of contemporary Poland, the Baltic Sea coast, and the people who live there. This powerful orchestra is a wonderful manifestation of that independence, which has its roots deep in the land and its folks.
The orchestra demonstrated these aforementioned passions and commitments beautifully in Wagner’s Flying Dutchman Overture, honoring as well as demonstrating Wagner’s claim that this particular opera marked the beginning of his career as a poet and his farewell to the “mere concoctor of opera texts.” This opera is the earliest of Wagner’s works performed at the Bayreuth Festival and is considered by this theater as the beginning of the mature Wagner canon.
Wieniawaski’s Second Violin Concerto that followed, is thought to be one of the greatest violin concertos of the Romantic era, memorable for its lush and moving melodies and harmonies. Although I am unfamiliar with this exquisite and challenging piece, let me assure you it was utterly thrilling as played by Nadrzycki. Small wonder his peers consider him the “most promising violin virtuoso of his generation. “According to the applause and standing ovation from our enthralled audience; we attendees all agreed.
Now for the really interesting part of the evening, for this audience member, happened right after intermission when the Polish Baltic Philharmonic played “Scheherazade.” Just as two nights before the Southwest Symphony under the expert baton of Conductor Nir Kabaretti had also performed “Scheherazade,” this Southwest Symphony’s rendition featured Concertmaster Reiko Niiya, who was kissed by the gods that evening and played divinely. In fact, truth be told, the entire orchestra played exquisitely. Maestro Kabaretti has done wonders with our orchestra. Although the Polish Baltic Philharmonic played the “Scheherazade” exceedingly well, my preference was the Southwest Florida Symphony’s version. Actually the buzz I overheard after the concert affirmed my choice.
Community Concerts continued a couple of weeks later with Theatro Lirico D’Europa performing Aida. To perform Verdi’s “Aida” a really “grand” opera, with all that, that means, was not the greatest idea for a scaled down touring version for this successful international opera company. This opera needs all the pomp and presentation called for in “grand” opera; lavish sets, costumes and multitudes of people to fill the stage, especially for Radames “Triumphal March” entrance, which usually includes a horse drawn chariot, multitudes of Ethiopian slaves, prisoners, Amonastro Ethiopian King, plus a chorus of priests, priestesses, ministers, soldiers, and the Egyptian populace. Three dancers introducing Radames’ grand entrance, didn’t cut it. Nevertheless, the orchestra, soloists and chorus were absolutely first first rate and Theatro Lirico deserved high marks for a gallant effort at “grand” opera.