A Spark of Originality
By MICHAEL CARUSO Entertainment Editor Some things never disappoint. One of them is Swarthmore College's music department. Programs are not merely played well —they're conceived with a spark of originality. Such was definitely the case Friday evening in Lang Concert Hall when the Swarthmore College Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra proffered a concert that was both interesting and enjoyable.
The highpoint of the evening came immediately after intermission with a performance, conducted by student Phillip Kloeckner, of Frederick Delius' "On Hearing the Fleet Cuckoo in Spring."
While not a Delius fanatic, I do enjoy hearing his music, certainly more frequently than you normally hear it, and this particular work has always been one of my favorites. The music is so gently conceived and orchestrated, the lines so lovingly arched, the harmonies so pastel and vague, the rhythms so meandering that they all create a rarified universe even more refined than those conjured up by Debussy and Ravel.
Mr. Kloeckner caught the right mood from the start. The first note is scored fully, yet it was played softly and lushly. There was a marvelous feeling of lilt and breath. The music moved without rushing. The texture of the sound was full without blurring the inner lines and the numerous woodwinds solos were handled lyrically. The rendition produced, if only fleetingly, a respite from an uglier world.
Student Thomas Whitman followed with his own conducting of Delius' "Summer Night on the River." While not as beautiful as the previous selection, it too, is a lovely work and it received a sympathetic reading.
Earlier in the program, Vivald's Concerto in A minor for two violins, strings, and continuo, Op. 3, no. 8, was played with Daryl Swartz and Bruce Davidson as the soloists.
The strings of the Swarthmore College Chamber Orchestra remain a marvel. The sound they produce is perfect for baroque music because it's pointed without being stringy. There's no flab to the tone, but neither is it harsh. Plus, all the members of the section play together as a unit. The ensemble verges on flawless.
This was the case Friday night in the Vivaldi. Even the unisons and octaves of the second movement were played cleanly.
Both soloists gave fine accounts of their parts. There were occasional pitch problems and at times the projection wasn't consistent, but the playing was vibrant and engaging.
The program both began and ended with fluff. Works by Peter Schickele and P.D.Q, Bach started the festivities and Rossini's lunatic Overture to "La Gazza Ladra" brought them to a close. Both were conducted humorously by James Freeman.