Hidden Valley Strings, April 2

By Scott MacClelland

LIKE THE FLOWERS BLOOMING everywhere, a spring bouquet of music for strings filled the Hidden Valley Theatre in Carmel Valley on Saturday afternoon. The program, including some rarities, was led from the violin of concertmaster Roy Malan in conjunction with music director Stewart Robertson.

Malan opened the program with an early 20th century Concerto in C “in the style of Vivaldi” Fritz-Kreisler-Resize-2by violinist Fritz Kreisler (pictured). Well, sort of. There were a few Baroque-style sequences, but not much else to fool anyone familiar with Vivaldi’s music. Malan was joined by 14 string players, many from the SF Bay Area, and Robertson providing a keyboard continuo. In the Andante doloroso, the orchestra softened their role with mutes.

The remainder of the program was all Scandinavian, with two readings of Edvard Grieg’s Two Elegiac Melodies (Heart Wounds and Spring,) the second with soprano Laura Anderson singing the original songs. That original version used a piano, but in this case she sang with the orchestra, a practice that no one among the performers could recall ever hearing done that way. It proved successful and all were heartily applauded.

Between the Grieg iterations came a truly gorgeous reading of Jean Sibelius’ Valse Triste. It made me think this was the best Hidden Valley string orchestra so far in its series.

The program ended with a rollicking local premiere, the Swedish composer Dag Wirén’s Serenade, Op.11. Dating from about a century ago, it was pure happy music. Its four movements and fifteen minutes, with lots of pizzicato to accompany the bowed melodies, flattered the different sections and gave the reading an infectious bounce. Robertson spoke of it as perhaps the one piece by this prolific composer that has managed to export out of Sweden. The third movement, an A-B-A Allegro vivace, suddenly erupted with a wild outburst, a startling departure from the work’s overall character and good for a chuckle. The final March was more fun and a standing ovation ensued.