By Scott MacClelland
LOCAL PREMIERE? Somebody may remember hearing Mozart’s Oboe Concerto in a live performance here, but, in 40 years, not me. However, it might have been played by the late, great John Mack, longtime principal with the Cleveland Orchestra, during one of his many master classes at the Hidden Valley Music Seminars. If not, it would take its place among several local premieres by the Youth Music Monterey Honors Orchestra, which performed the work on Sunday in Carmel with guest soloist Elizabeth Koch Tiscione, principal oboist of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
By way of context, former YMM music director John Larry Granger gave the local premiere of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, and Farkhad Khudyev, YMM’s current music director, premiered Sibelius’ Seventh Symphony. From her sparkling performance of the Mozart, I was surprised to learn that Tiscione had never before played the piece. Likewise, I was surprised to learn that her cadenza solos were written out by John Mack. (She used two music stands; one for the concerto itself and the other for the elaborate solo cadenzas.)
Tiscione, attired in a sleeveless gown of black and gold that would have stunned a Halloween party, not only dominated the Mozart but—ultimately to no avail—momentarily shocked two young boys in the second row by shushing their mutual chatter during the performance.
The concert began with the Junior Youth Orchestra’s performance of three local premieres: Carl Friedemann’s Slavonic Rhapsody, Merle Isaac’s Romanian Overture and John Foulds’ Keltic Lament. Following a significant migration to university of YMM seniors, the junior orchestra now includes a slew of new youngsters, some of whose feet didn’t even reach the floor from their seats. (The many different-sized cellos must have confused some in the audience.) But these three short pieces were neither simple nor easy. Isaac’s Romanian Overture was especially challenging because of its slow, long-sustained phrasing. (Merle Isaac is probably more responsible for the creation of youth orchestras in America than anyone else, thanks to his simplified arrangements for beginning musicians of great classical music; this piece was an original.)
The Honors Orchestra opened its half of the program with a whiz-bang reading of Berlioz’ spectacular Roman Carnival Overture, a stand-alone showpiece arranged from themes heard in his opera Benvenuto Cellini. The lengthy cor anglais solo, derived from a duet in the opera, was played by Danylo Didoszak, a student at Monterey High School, to the delight of the audience and his fellow musicians alike.
The program concluded with George Enescu’s greatest hit, the irresistible Romanian Rhapsody No. 1, a tour de force for orchestra that’s littered with cameo solos spotlighting individual players. Even with the loss to college of many of the strongest musicians from last season, the orchestra sounded in peak condition and got the audience acclaim it deserved.
And so did Khudyev, the magician on the podium.