The Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra under conductor Charles Peltz sounded very good in its Sunday afternoon concert at the Alayne Trombley Auditorium at the Maple Avenue Middle School.
The program was a little offbeat, even novel, in that Peltz programmed three rarely performed tunes by Percy Grainger and another rarity by Henry Cowell that really didn’t connect to the program’s mainstays: Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony” and Brahms’ Double Concerto for violin and cello. The reason, Peltz told the large crowd, was that these shorter and lesser known pieces were miniatures to whet the appetite for the larger canvases.
A worthy venture, perhaps, but three of the four works were odd little pieces that served mainly to feature the guest alto saxophonist Ulrich Krieger, who did very well. He soloed in Grainger’s “Shepherd’s Hey” and “The Lonely Desert-Man Sees the Tents of the Happy Tribes” and in Cowell’s Air and Scherzo. Krieger’s dusky tone was especially haunting in the long sustained tones of the Grainger tunes and he skillfully navigated the tricky finger passages in the Cowell.
All the tunes used a small chamber orchestra, mostly of strings, which sounded very rich. The best of the group was Grainger’s arrangement of “Londonderry Air,” which Peltz phrased very musically.
In the Schubert, balances for the full orchestra were good, the strings sounded silken and the woodwinds showed exemplary ensemble. Peltz set a leisurely walking tempo in the first movement that seemed to work but some downbeats were a little heavy and the brass were a bit too declamatory in their accented chords. Despite these issues, the musicians’ passion transcended any glitches, often to thrilling effect.
The second movement had a lovely, lilting fluidity, details were good and woodwind solos were excellent. The mood shifts from high drama (when the brass were added) to a distant serenity (when they weren’t) seemed a bit excessive.
Concertmaster Michael Emery and Principal Cellist Jameson Platte were the intense and committed soloists in the Brahms. Platte’s phrases were especially strong and clear. His tone was rich but sometimes he attacked his part almost too aggressively. Emery was gentler and did well with the many technical passages. Sometimes a nervous edge crept into his tone that intruded when he should have soared.
But it was a good effort by all. Peltz and the orchestra were good partners and matched the soloists’ passion. The first movement was the best for flow and connection.
The next GFSO concert is 7:30 p.m. May 10.