I had the good fortune to attend a recent concert this past Saturday by the Juilliard Pre-College Orchestra under the direction of maestro Adam Glaser. It was truly a rewarding experience to see young musicians performing challenging music and conveying such musical maturity and artistry. This is in no small part due to the conducting skills of Adam Glaser. In a world where conductors sometimes get consumed by their own sense of gesture (more for the sake of theatrics than practicality), Mr. Glaser communicated the music to the orchestra in a most clear and artistic manner. One could hear the performers executing the very musical ideas, shapes and phrases emanating from the conductor's baton. Indeed, the greatest challenge for any conductor is to impart a true sense of how the music is to be performed and expressed (in a way that makes it easy for the performer to both understand and translate for the listener). Among the wonderful selections for the evening (Wagner's Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde and Schumann's Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op. 129), my favorite was Mussorgsky's renowned "Pictures at an Exhibition" (orchestrated / arranged by Maurice Ravel).
I believe this was the most challenging piece on the program...not only for the orchestra as a whole but for several of the soloists performing repeated themes at extreme dynamics and varying ranges. The principal trumpet received a work-out for the evening and held his own from the lyrical melodies of the "Promenade" to the majestic "Great Gate of Kiev." Horn players were also featured both as a section and as soloists. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of this piece is to deliver with consistency. After all, the audience has many opportunities to hear the same theme performed by various sections of the orchestra throughout the course of the piece. Therefore, it becomes clear what the themes are and how they should sound. Indeed, this puts the artist in the position of being "exposed", if you will, in his / her rendering of these beautifully recurring themes (not always in a friendly range or dynamic). That said, the performers held their own from the outstandingly consistent cymbal crashes (not an easy thing to so...ask any percussionist) to the frolicking oboe in the "ballet of the unhatched chickens". The brass section as a whole performed well-balanced chords with great majesty and conviction. Additionally, the strings imparted a sense of dreaminess from the ethereal muted passages to the haunting tremolo figures.
Again, kudos to you Maestro Glaser and to the Juilliard Pre-College Orchestra for a wonderful evening of music-making.
Looking forward to the next one....
- Tom Nazziola