The New West Symphony Gives a Shining Performance With Maestro Marcelo Lehninger
By Geoffrey Maingart
February 25, 2014
The New West Symphony with Marcelo Lehninger at the helm is becoming a formidable presence in our musical community. This brilliant Brazilian conductor who is not only a favorite of the audience but the musicians as well is bringing dynamic programs to three communities, Oxnard, Thousand Oaks and Santa Monica.
The program on Sunday February 23rd at Barnum Hall in Santa Monica included some of the gems of the repertoire. The concert opened with the Suite from Ma Mere l’Oye, the Mother Goose Suite by Maurice Ravel. The work is divide into 5 movements and paints his musical version some of the favorite fairy tales including, Sleeping Beauty, Tom Thumb, Beauty and the Beast, Empress of the Pagodas and Fairy garden. Originally composed for piano, Ravel orchestrated it in 1911. Lehninger is truly at the helm of the orchestra with a beautiful and elegant technique and he is always striving to bring out the many colors of this delightful work. We heard some fine playing by the woodwinds and Joel Pargman; the acting concertmaster gave a beautiful interpretation of the violin solos. Ravel, maybe the great of the impressionistic composers creates a magnificent tone poem from beginning to end and the orchestra did not disappoint in this demanding composition.
Second on the program was the rarely heard Momoprecoce, Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra by Heitor Villa-Lobos performed by Christina Ortiz. This is the greatest of the Brazilian composers. The title can be translated as Precocious Lad and King of the Brazilian Carnival. The piece is about unbounded enthusiasm of Carnival and the brilliant Brazilian pianist Christina Ortiz with Lehninger could not have captured the spirit of this piece better. The music builds from the beginning to the end and the work does kind of ramble a bit for the first 10 minutes. One is almost waiting for the familiar style of other works by Villa-Lobos and the dance rhythms of Brazil. Towards the end the audience is not disappointed. The percussion joins the festivities and the brass and orchestra begin to soar. Both artists are having fun to the end. The enthusiasm by the audience at the end brought Ortiz back to the stage three time for encores.
Last on the program was one of the great war-horses of the repertoire, Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky transcribed for orchestra by Ravel. When programed one can expect a full house. It is a chance to really show off the quality of the musicians in the orchestra. Two of the standouts were the tuba player, P. Blake Cooper and principal trumpet, James Grinta who both gave brilliant performance in these famous solos. The tempos chosen by Marcelo were virtuoso and the orchestra and conductor gave an inspired performance. The famous architect, Victor Hartmann who died at the young age of 39, inspired the piece. The work depicts watercolors, sketches and drawing by the architect shown at an exhibit dedicated to Hartmann in 1874. The titles of the movements tell all and include; The Gnome, The Old Castle, Tuileries, Roman Tombs and The Great Gate of Kiev to name a few. Lehninger was brilliant and the orchestra has proved to be a great addition with the LA Philharmonic in our community. Both have wonderful South American conductors. New West deserves great support by all. It is providing educational opportunities to thousands of students building a musical community across Ventura and Los Angeles. See their website for future concerts and how you can also participate in Symphonic Adventures and Outreach concerts. https://www.newwestsymphony.org/. The next concerts will be from March 21st to the 23rd and will present the Requiem by Verdi.