Ah, the trevails of the fifth stand. Actually, some of the people that got cut from the Mozart orchestra for the New West Symphony's performance with Pinchas Zukerman tonight and tomorrow were happy to go home a bit early last night. For me and a number of others, though, we took the chance to sit in the audience and watch Pinky play.
Frankly, I thought the violins sounded a bit THIN with those last few stands gone, but...
no, I fully expected a reduced orchestra for Mozart, as is the custom. It was nice to have the run-through yesterday with the too-big orchestra, and everyone still gets to play on the Brahms Double concerto. He gave us that opportunity on purpose, and it was generous.
I actually never had seen Zukerman play from the audience; the last time I heard Zukerman perform was when I was playing in the Lincoln Symphony in Nebraska. I think he nearly reduced the conductor out of that orchestra, which would not have been a disappointment to me!
I noticed immediately that he has a huge presence; he's like a big rock, right there in the middle of the stage. The Alpha musician, for sure, and there is a certain calm and strength to his upper body motions. His almost-white hair shines beneath the stage lights, and his expression goes between between stoic, beatific and mischievous.
Though Maestro Boris Brott was conducting the orchestra, Zukerman was quite involved in directing the group. He demonstrated numerous effects that he wanted: a quick bow here, a flourish there, a diminuendo then contrasting forte. So funny, none of the effects were hard to achieve, and yet it made me think about the fact that we all tend to play risk-averse in orchestra. It does not take too much more to make things sparkle, just a bit of energy, attention and spark.
During the first movement, Zukerman leaned over to interact with the first violins, with immediate results. And when he wanted less sound from the orchestra, all he did was open his arms and the orchestra hushed on command. As serious and demanding he was, he was punchy with the jokes, playing in place of the first movement cadenza, the opening of the Beethoven concerto, which morphed into the end of the cadenza. He worked in a bit of Mozart 3 for the second movement's cadenza, and some Bach E major Partita for the last. All violin “in-jokes,” which did garner some good laughs!
It will be a lovely concert, tonight and Saturday night. Come see it if you are in Southern California!
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