HEADLINES

Orchestral Masterpieces and Holiday Songs are Enchanting at the RSO December Concert

Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra – Saturday, December 3, 2016 Reviewed by Courtenay Caublé

We must all breathlessly wait until January 2018 to learn which of four already chosen finalists will be the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra’s new Music Director. With Kevin Fitzgerald’s appearance as guest conductor last Saturday evening at the Ridgefield High School’s Anne S. Richardson Auditorium, we still have two more to go before the decision is made. The idea that anyone could outdo Maestro Fitzgerald’s performance either musically or visually, however, challenges the imagination. In all of the programmed works, his excellent conducting technique conveyed the sensitively discerned nuances of his fine interpretations to both his orchestra, which followed him attentively and appreciatively, and to the audience. One member of the audience sitting close to me commented that watching him was like having the musical score itself in front of his eyes.

With RSO Concertmaster Jorge Avila and soprano Monica Yunus as soloists, Maestro Fitzgerald’s program included the “Winter” Concerto from Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, two soprano arias (“Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion” and “How Beautiful Are the Feet”) from Handel’s Messiah, Mozart’s Exultate, jubilate, “O Holy Night”, and Johannes Brahms’s Symphony No. 1 in C minor.

As always, violinist Jorge Avila’s combined virtuosity and musical sensitivity shone forth in his playing of the Vivaldi concerto, and the overall quality of the performance was immeasurably enhanced by Maestro Fitzgerald’s orchestral collaboration, providing carefully controlled orchestral nuances in support of the solo violin voice.

Underpinned by the sensitive collaboration of Maestro Fitzgerald and the orchestra, soprano Monica Yunus’s winning amalgam of vocal loveliness, technical agility and gracious stage presence assured a gratifying listening experience for all of her solo numbers. Both of the Handel arias were lyrically lovely and emotionally expressive, and the contrasting moods and coloratura display within the three-movement Mozart motet Exultate, jubilate were alternately joyous, emotionally warm, and technically exciting. Her last number, “O Holy Night”, supported by a large orchestra and an enhanced orchestration, brought the audience to its feet in an overall appreciation of her fine performance.

The Brahms First Symphony is so replete with many moods and demands for subtle shifts in nuances that mastering it in the Ridgefield Symphony’s limited rehearsal schedule is a challenge. Nevertheless, Maestro Fitzgerald and the orchestra came through with a truly impressive performance. Nowhere else in the evening’s performance was the combination of Fitzgerald’s sensitive understanding of the music and his ability to communicate with his players more evident. Brahms would have been pleased.

The whole concert certainly pleased me, leaving me hoping to hear more from both the extraordinary Kevin Fitzgerald and the evening’s excellent soloists.

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