The Music Director of Maverick Concerts, Alexander Platt, spends most of his year conducting orchestras. A few years ago he decided to try leading a small orchestra once a year at Maverick, reviving a tradition from the early days of the series. This event has now become a fixture in the Maverick schedule, and it always draws a good audience. It’s always an artistic success, too, but I can’t remember an orchestral program at Maverick I enjoyed quite as much as the latest one on Saturday.
Things began with Britten’s Young Apollo, a “fanfare” for piano and orchestra which Britten had suppressed and which was revived only after his death. It’s wildly exuberant and somewhat repetitious and dumb. The performance, with pianist Stephen Gosling, was about as wild as the music. Unfortunately, Gosling was less wild in Henry Cowell’s The Banshee. I have to admire Gosling’s enterprise in learning the technique of playing this piece, directly on the strings, inside the piano. But this music has been in my ears since I bought Cowell’s recording of it when I was in my teens, and Gosling didn’t reproduce Cowell’s wide dynamic range, not merely spooky but sometimes frightening.
Aaron Copland preferred his original version of Appalachian Spring for 13 instruments to the later version for full orchestra. So do I. It’s crisper and tastier, the imaginative scoring more effective. It was a great success.
Robert Starer was buried in Woodstock 2001. Yet during Maverick’s 100th anniversary season, the festival presented but one work to honor him. But Song of Solitude, a substantial 13 minute work for solo cello, full of variety and imagination, was entirely characteristic of the composer’s style. I don’t think this was one of the composer’s works which premiered at Maverick but it certainly belonged there. Cellist Emmanuel Feldman, who learned the music for this occasion, performed it fervently
We go out of our way to hear mezzo-soprano Maria Todaro whenever she sings. Fresh from the success of her Phoenicia Festival of the Voice, Todaro sang the vocal part in the original chamber version of Falla’s El Amor Brujo, music written in 1915, the year the Maverick series began. Strangely, I had a little trouble hearing her in her first solo, but afterwards her throaty gypsy style powered across the hall, down and dirty and just right. Platt’s conducting was vigorous, his little ensemble very well coordinated. This performance was a real blast, and a fitting conclusion to a memorable and generous evening.