Review: Classical music alive, well with SSO’s young guest soloists
SCHENECTADY There’s nothing like featuring two hometown musical talents to bring the fans out. On Sunday afternoon at Proctors, the Schenectady Symphony Orchestra under music director Charles Schneider closed its 79th season in a program that thrilled a huge crowd of fans.
Pianist Ryan Reilly, who had attended LaSalle Institute in Troy and is now at 21 a junior at the Juilliard School, and trumpeter Anthony Bellino, who had attended Niskayuna High School and at 20 is a junior at Northwestern University, were the featured guests. They showed that classical music is alive and very well.
Reilly had the singular task of having to bring to life Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 2, which local composer Joseph Fennimore re-orchestrated. The concerto in its original form had never found an audience. Twenty years ago, Fennimore decided to edit what was possible and rewrite in Tchaikovsky’s style what was needed. The resulting three movements gave hints of other Tchaikovsky works, had substantial drama, some pretty lyrical sections and a piano part with plenty of fireworks. The choice of piano solos without orchestra interchanging either with orchestra alone or with the piano filagreeing the orchestral melody was a bit odd, as was the substantial trio sonata of piano, violin and cello in the slow movement. It all sounded very different.
While the orchestra didn’t sound too sure until the third movement, which fit like a glove, Reilly had an essentially brand new concerto to make his own. He did a superb job. His weighted chords, his sparkling technique even over the many crosshand passages, and his singing tone were top notch. The finale was superlative and the audience jumped to its feet with loud applause.
Bellino was an equally assured soloist in Alexander Arutiunian’s Trumpet Concerto (1950). After a few declamatory calls, Bellino’s singing tone enchanted as he spun out the Armenian-style lyricism. The muted slow melody was especially haunting. The orchestra sounded good. Although there were a few fast technical passages of quick scales and fast double tonguing for the trumpet throughout the concerto, Arutiunian saved the flashiest and toughest licks for the final cadenza. Bellino knocked them off easily and got a standing ovation.
Both these works were new to the orchestra, so it was expected that Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 (“Pastorale”) would be an old friend. Instead, players sounded nervous and a little heavy in the opening two movements, whose tempos were unusually contemplative. Things picked up for the “happy gathering,” but the “storm” was cautious. The finale joyously brought it home.