Westchester Chamber Symphony

May 5, 2012

Last Saturday’s all Mendelssohn concert at Iona College by the Westchester Chamber Symphony was, as usual, a solid performance by a very good classical orchestra.  I am not such a big fan of Felix Mendelssohn;  his Italian Symphony (the 4th) is the only piece I really care for;  it is, to me, Mendelssohn’s best.  Fortunately it was on this program. No soloist, but this orchestra rendered it as well as one could hope for.

The concert opened with a mercifully short, boring piece.  True, little Felix was just 12 years old when he wrote it, but still.  Even a good symphony like this one is composed of musicians, not alchemists.  No one can make boring interesting.

Next was the violin concerto.  Friedrich Nietzsche ranked it among the four great German violin concerti.  World renowned violinist Elmar Oliviera turned in a virtuoso performance but the music, while sweet at times, seemed redundant and more flowery than melodic.  And the flowers were neither roses nor lilacs. 

Let me nit-pick just a bit.  Microphones were placed in front of the stage on long intrusive stands.  It didn’t affect the music, but all performances are visual as well as audible and they put up a visual barrier to the audience.  Whatever intimacy would have existed, did not because of this.  We were not a unit.  They were them and we were us.  I could nit-pick further, but one nit is enough.

Musically, if I want repetitive, as the violin concerto was, I will go with Bach fugues which especially have that quality.  The ultimate, of course, is Ravel’s Bolero which somehow works in spite of itself.

Founder and conductor Barry Charles Hoffman is both conservative and flamboyant, seemingly oxymoronic but believable in both roles.  He takes his music very seriously while at the same time displaying great passion.  He is a conductor to be reckoned with.