Review: Parnas sisters brilliant in concert with Albany Symphony Orchestra

Local sisters violinist Madalyn Parnas, 19, and cellist Cicely, 17, were the stars of the Albany Sym

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For Gazette music writer Geraldine Freedman’s preview of this concert, click here.

Local sisters violinist Madalyn Parnas, 19, and cellist Cicely, 17, were the stars of the Albany Symphony Orchestra concert Thursday night at the Canfield Casino. They performed two works with an exuberance that brought the small but enthusiastic crowd to its feet: St. Saens’ “The Muse and the Poet” and Vivaldi’s Double Concerto in B-flat Major.

Dressed in long gowns, Madalyn in rose and Cicely in purple, they played with a shared passion yet showed an ability to step back for a few tender moments. St. Saens’ work, written in 1909, is very romantic.

The violin acts as the sweet inspiration to the cello-poet, who grumbles and demands. Cicely used her big, rich, dark tone to express her often virtuosic part with gutsy abandon. Madalyn’s tone was also big but strongly edged.

The sisters, who often work together as a duo, displayed an easy dialogue and sure-footed technical capacities. Conductor David Alan Miller kept a close eye on ensemble and balances, and the orchestra provided strong support.

In the Vivaldi, the sisters bowed with vigor. The two outer, faster movements sped by with bouncy tempos, strong pulses and much vitality. The slower second movement was more a blend and very pretty. The orchestra was excellent throughout.

Prior to the Parnas’ performances, the string orchestra performed Schoenberg’s “Verklaerte Nacht” or “Transfigured Night.” Miller told the crowd the work, written in 1899 when Schoenberg was 25, showed off the composer’s incredible craftsmanship and was an important step in his evolution to eventually embrace his famous 12-tone philosophy.

He was also one of the first to use a chamber music setting to describe the story of a poem. In this case, Richard Dehmel’s poem tells of a woman’s anguish that ends in her lover forgiving her, which is the transfiguration, and all in a walk through moonlight.

Marvelous rich and dark harmonies, soaring solos, texture and thrilling passion reflected the influences of Mahler and Richard Strauss (both mentors). This was the first time the orchestra had ever performed any Schoenberg and it was a little shaky. Pitch never centered. But Miller phrased with drama and passion, and kept good balance and strong pacing.

In Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8, the orchestra happily responded to Miller’s often quick but buoyant and lilting tempos. It was a cheery reading.

The concert will be repeated tonight at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall and tomorrow in Pittsfield at the Barrington Stage Company.

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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