The Durango Herald
By Judith Reynolds
November 22, 2010
The San Juan Symphony knows how to throw a party – a 25th anniversary party. Steep the whole thing in memory and add something new.
That’s exactly what happened last weekend as our regional orchestra celebrated a quarter century of music making. Sunday afternoon in the Community Concert Hall, the orchestra marked its silver jubilee with a stunning concert packed with parallels, surprises and tributes.
Music Director Arthur Post, Executive Director Kathy Myrick and all the musicians re-created the original program with works by Berlioz, Beethoven and Mendelssohn. They also invited people who were on stage and in the audience way back then. They acknowledged an early, key sponsor, First National Bank. The same bank happened to sponsor Sunday’s concert. How’s that for loyalty and history?
Post singled out two musicians on stage and two in the audience. Violinist Sharon Brink and flutist Rochelle Mann played in the first combined concert of the then-Farmington-based San Juan Symphony and the Durango Civic Symphony. Then Post acknowledged Lenny and Arlette Felberg, seated in the plaza. The Felbergs were the soloists Nov. 19-20, 1986. They came to hear their contemporary counterparts perform Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto and Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.
Sunday’s soloists, pianist Benjamin Hochman and violinist Jennifer Koh, also happen to be married. Based in New York, they are rising young musicians in the world of classical music. Post had performed with Hochman, and the Felberg echo was almost too good to be true.
The orchestra opened with a spirited reading of Berlioz’s sparkling Hungarian March. Two dozen student musicians augmented the San Juan Symphony in the now-annual side-by-side performance.
The heart of the program followed with two concertos featuring the invited soloists. Hochman opened Beethoven’s G Major Concerto with its deceptively simple musical statement that soon blossomed into a complex and deeply nuanced performance with the orchestra. The nearly 30-minute work unfurled interspersed with Hochman’s brilliant rendering of some of the most compelling cadenzas in piano literature.
In the second half of the concert, Koh’s artistry mesmerized the audience. She balanced Mendelssohn’s exquisitely lyrical passages with highly virtuosic playing in the high-speed, almost frenetic sections. Her artistry was evident especially the third movement, famous for its effervescent playfulness. Koh brought a lightness to the work that the orchestra matched under Post’s airy interpretation. Nothing seemed labored; everything seemed buoyant and clear.
The unexpected came in the middle. Post and company played a work commissioned from Farmington native Sam Cardon. A brief, programmatic piece titled “Song of the Mountain Poets,” Cardon’s work reflects the style of the film-score genre he has mastered in his career – evocative and energetic. I hope the orchestra will add it to its repertoire and play it again.
The anniversary concert did everything one hopes for in a commemorative program. It honored the past, provided deeply satisfying musical moments and pointed to the future.
Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic. Reach her at judithlreynolds@ yahoo.com.
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