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Lively Longwood Welcomes Great Soloists


Blaise Déjardin (file photo)

The Longwood Symphony Orchestra, whose motto is “Healing the Community Through Music,” gave a rousing performance at Jordan Hall Friday under its music director Ronald Feldman, previously having joined the BSO cello section at the age of 19 until 2001. He has achieved critical acclaim for his work as a conductor and a cellist.  LSO players’ reassuring qualifications represent many specialties of Medicine and allied fields.  Every LSO concert partners with non-profit entities which advocate for Health and Social Equity—last night, the Palfrey Fund for Child Advocacy Scholars, and the Cambridge Community Foundation. Both organizations gave informative and precise accounts of their activities in their acceptance remarks, divided at the beginning of each half of the concert. Recipient scholars of the Palfrey Fund were publicly recognized in the audience.

The program featured the number 2, according to Feldman in his opening remarks: two contemporary composers, John Harbison Remembering Gatsby and Joan Towers Duets; two soloists, Ayano Ninomiya, violin and Blaise Déjardin, cello in the Brahms Concerto for violin and cello; and the two beneficiaries. A further duo not mentioned was the presence  of 2 cellists from the BSO, Blaise Déjardins as a soloist, and Ronald Feldman as the conductor. The evening also celebrated the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote.

Harbison had long contemplated an opera based on “The Great Gatsby;” writing Remembering Gatsby (Foxtrot for Orchestra) ten years before the opera came to fruition. The dramatic opening chords portend the eventual tragedy, but meanwhile they are quickly swept away by the night club song and dance music, evocative of the era, played by the concertino section of the orchestra, including the saxophone, percussion and piano. With many heads bobbing in the orchestra and audience, the feeling of carefree abandon became quite palpable. In the more contemplative moments came notable solos throughout the orchestra, including a shining moment from concert mistress Stacie Lin.

The solo cadenza duet in Schumann’s cello Concerto,” inspired Tower’s Duets, which places magnificent chamber music within a symphonic setting. The opening and final duet by the first stand of cellists, Joseph Rovine and Gregory Crist, fully earned the special applause they garnered at the end. The two French horn players, and the exceptional percussion and tympani players Tom Sandora and Jeremy Lang all also contributed notable solo work. Kudos to Feldman for guiding the players through the jungle of rhythmic complexity, especially in the strings. Duets impressed as truly effective piece.

The opening expectancy that emerged from the two soloists in the introduction to Brahms’s “Double” Concerto in A Minor for violin and cello, never wavered. Ayano Ninomiya has become a world renowned violinist, and has her early roots in the Boston area.  Blaise Déjardins was recently appointed to the principal cello of the BSO, and has blazed a trail with founding the Boston Cello Quartet with 3 BSO colleagues, in addition to many other moments of recognition and achievements. With exquisite communication and tone-matching, they completed each other’s phrases and captivated the small but select audience. Even with a professional orchestra, maintaining the balance between orchestra and soloist can present a challenge, moreso when two soloists occupy such different ranges. 

Feldman achieved for this for the most part, with some sensitive playing from the orchestra sections, while never discouraging the orchestra from giving vent to a full Brahmsian sound at the tuttis. The crowd assented with its own tutti.

Gwendoline Thornblade has played viola with many Boston area music groups. She founded the Suzuki School of Newton and is currently the conductor of the Newton Senior Center Chamber Ensemble.

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