Jullian Pellicano and the Longy Conservatory Orchestra presented a thoroughly enjoyable concert of Ravel and Mozart to a capacity audience in Pickman Hall last evening. The highlight was Wayman Chin’s performance of Mozart’s Piano Concert No. 17 in G major.
The evening opened with a lovely performance of Le Tombeau de Couperin (1919) of Maurice Ravel, composed after his experiences as a truck driver for the 13th Artillery Regiment in WWI. Originally written for the piano, the piece is in six sections, each of which was dedicated to a different friend who had fallen in battle. In the orchestral version there are four sections, a Prelude followed by three dances, Forlane, Menuet, and Rigaudon. For the most part the music is joyous, but there are serious undertones, particularly in the Menuet. Pellicano and his young orchestra brought out both moods with a great sensitivity to the sweep of melody and line.
Le Tombeau de Couperin is orchestrated as a concerto for winds, with the strings accompanying. In this performance the Pickman stage was filled with 12 violins, four violas, six cellos, and three contrabasses, joined by three flutes, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns, one English horn, a trumpet, and a harp. The Prelude opens with a wistful melody in the oboe, and the movement is dominated by that instrument. The performance by Asako Furuoya was outstanding, setting the standard for the solos that followed. In the following dances other winds took the lead, sometimes solo, sometimes in pairs or trios. All were excellent performances.
I wondered what I would be hearing when a seven-foot Steinway then rolled onto the forestage for the piano concerto. The piano in Mozart’s day was far less loud, and lacked the long sustain that a modern instrument produces. I needn’t have worried. Chin’s balance with the orchestra was perfect – crisp, clear, and never excessive. I could hear and see his restraint in pedaling, keeping the lightness of line the piece demands. The orchestra – particularly the woodwinds – responded in kind. The first movement had some intonation problems in the first violins, but they improved as the piece went on. By the end of the marvelous Andante movement the ensemble was first-rate. The conclusion of the Allegretto brought standing “Bravos!” from the enthusiastic audience.
The concert closed with the well-known Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550 of Mozart. With the exception of a few more intonation problems in the first violins, the performance was at a high level. As in the performance of the large Longy Orchestra in Sanders Theatre last month, Pellicano has again shown his skill at guiding young musicians to play great music with high technical competence and excitement.