Reichenbach Zeitung, May 10/11, 1997
Piccolo March to the Apron
Fifth Season of the Vogtland Philharmonic Greiz/Reichenbach ends with a giant success
In the sold-out Neuberinhaus the music-lovers expected something special for the ninth subscription concert of the Vogtland Philharmonic Orchestra Greiz/Reichenbach. And in fact the evening that concluded the fifth season became a great success.
Especially the young people celebrated the orchestra and the guest conductor enthusiastically, because Martin Piecuch from the USA knew he had to add an encore after a demanding program. What the music-lovers have gotten to hear only in small portions in Reichenbach in the last five years was intensively compressed on Wednesday. The Vogtland Philharmonic Orchestra had already presented works by Bernstein, Bloch (cello concerto), Copland (clarinet concerto), and Gershwin, but a pure (North-) American evening was to be experienced this night for the first time. The common seating plan in America was used: the first violins are placed to the left of the conductor, the second violins on the right, the cellos in the middle, with the violas on their right, the double basses on the extreme left side. The French horns changed places with the trumpets, but the sound was maintained. Remarkable were the strong woodwind section and the five percussion players, who had to alternate between different instruments.
At the very beginning, timpani, gong and brass thundered the "Fanfare for the Common Man" in the hall. For some of the listeners the fanfare by Aaron Copland (1900-1990) sounded too dissonant, but the impression was tremendous. Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) is surely known by everybody from television, where he was very successful as a conductor. The overture to his opera "Candide" sounded surprisingly spirited and brisk. This work is rhythmically very sophisticated. The percussion section accomplished its tasks outstandingly. In the lyrical parts the four clarinets and the three flutes played brilliantly. The conductor achieved tempo changes with economical gestures. In contrast the "Adagio for Strings" op. 11 by Samuel Barber (1910-1981) from 1936 seemed especially tender.
After the solemn string sounds of Barber, Martin Piecuch presented depiction of great happiness, composed in 1944 by Aaron Copland, the dean of 20th century American music. The ballet music to "Appalachian Spring" has found its way deservedly into the worlds concert halls, and now finally into the Neuberinhaus. Indeed the leaves and blossoms of the trees cannot be heard, but a variety of bird songs can as only woodwind can reproduce. In an atmospheric tone painting the flute, the bassoon, the English Horn and the clarinet announce their presence in order. Muted trumpets mix with the harp and the violas. Suddenly all the strings roar and the brass break in with a new tempo. What a variety of dance-like rhythms! Everything intensifies into a veritable hymn to nature. The spring transforms into a warm summer. The slow passages of the woodwinds and the violas, then of the brass with all of the strings-they all lead to the climax, accordingly transmitting the farewell of spring. The conductor and orchestra were able to arouse these impressions with this truly spring-like composition by Aaron Copland.
After the intermission, one more work by Leonard Bernstein was heard. His musical "West Side Story" can be characterized as his trademark. The symphonic dances from this opera-like work are a profound challenge for any symphony orchestra. The Vogtland Philharmonic Orchestra under the strong guidance of the American guest conductor met the high expectations in every respect. Just from Martin Piecuchs animated gestures, it could be seen that he had studied and rehearsed this masterpiece with real dedication. The fate of Shakespeares "Romeo and Julia" from 1595 until the 20th century has founded innumerable successions. Bernsteins successful work features not only exciting melodies, but his stark representation the racial problems of the USA. The tragedy of our existence is just that we do not defend consistently the beauty of our lives. False ideals spoil the young generation again and again, and unfortunately the elder people, too. However, there is no trace of it in the dances. They sparkle with zest for life. This begins with the finger-snapping of the instrumentalists and ends with the loud shouts of "Mambo!!" Ecstatic moments change into the expressively melting passages of the strings. Chamber-music-like passages with celeste, vibraphone and string quartet change with insertions of heavy brass and then dissolve into a flute solo.
Martin Piecuch ensured his success by bringing with him the Stars and Stripes, not denying his special liking for wind bands. The Philharmonic Orchestra played "The Stars and Stripes Forever" with élan, and the three piccolo flutes marched to the apron with genuine showmanship and demonstrated their acoustic power with penetrating trills. The heavy brass did not want to settle for second place. Three trumpets, one tuba, and three trombones completed the "Big Band in the front row, which could not be surpassed in loudness. Standing ovations moved the pleased conductor to a repetition of the encore.
The success justifies the means. This was true and is still true. Five years for the Vogtland Philharmonic Greiz/Reichenbach: 45 subscription concerts in Reichenbach and just as many in Greiz. (The other large and small concerts are already innumerable!) The musicians filled the expectant audience with enthusiasm again and again. It should not be omitted here to thank the management of the Vogtland Philharmonic Orchestra for the immense organizational work that is necessary to carry out such a fantastic program.
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