NYP Winds at Hidden Valley, July 8, 2013

New York Philharmonic Woodwind treat

By Robert Reid

The concert series presented each summer by Hidden Valley Music Seminars in Carmel Valley is a special treat for local music lovers. Since early June, many of us have enjoyed recitals featuring the oboe, cello, flute (jazz and classical) and English horn, all presented by world-class instrumentalists. But the recitals are only the public showcase. The artists are here is to present week-long master classes for talented students who are drawn from all over the world.

On July 8, the final recital of the summer series featured stalwarts of the New York Philharmonic woodwind section, Judith LeClair, principal bassoon, and Mark Nuccio, acting principal clarinet.  The two were accompanied by Hiromi Fukuda, a fine pianist who holds degrees from Tokyo University and Juilliard. Ms. Fukuda was visiting from Santa Barbara where she serves on the teaching faculty at the Music Academy of the West.

This was not a program for those looking for the familiar works of Bach, Beethoven or Brahms.  That said, the entertaining evening opened with a short work for clarinet and piano, After You, Mr. Gershwin, composed by the Hungarian clarinetist and teacher, Bela Kovacs. This jazzy romp is a technical challenge for the clarinetist and Mr. Nuccio met all difficulties with ease.

Ms. LeClair next took the stage to perform two works for bassoon and piano. The first was Deux morceaux, of 1908, by the Russian composer, Reinhold Glière. The gorgeous, singing tone of Ms. LeClair was on display throughout. The following work, Polonaise, by the Czech composer, Ludwig Milde, was originally composed as an etude for solo bassoon; the piano accompaniment was added later. Milde was a virtuoso performer and prolific composer of works for bassoon, some of which are being studied in the master class. Ms. LeClair conquered the virtuosic elements of the etude. She made it look so easy.

Mr. Nuccio and Ms. Fukuda returned to perform Black Dog by the contemporary composer, Scott McAllister, who is currently professor of music composition at Baylor University. The piece is a take off on a hit song by the rock band, Led Zeppelin. For the next 12 minutes, the large audience witnessed a wild virtuosic display punctuated with occasional quiet interludes.

Ms.LeClair returned once again to perform Carl Maria von Weber’s Andante e Rondo Ongarese, a work she has performed here in the past. The audience loved the operatic beginning, a highly technical middle section and catchy dance-like finale.To conclude, Fukuda, LeClair and Nuccio performed Trio Pathétique by Mikhail Glinka, who is widely regarded as the father of the national school of Russian music. This is an early piece written in 1832 during a long visit to Italy and before Glinka began formal music training; the Italian operatic influence and his innate musical ability are apparent in this agreeable work. I was taken with the tonal beauty, superb balance and impeccable intonation of the two wind players.Ms. Fukuda’s piano playing was exceptional. 

Bravo Hidden Valley! It is a pleasure to hear live classical music presented by brilliant musicians in a relaxed, intimate setting and performance space with good acoustics. And we in the audience have the opportunity to chat with the performers over refreshments following the concert. On Monday night, a large portion of the audience lingered long after the final note sounded.