COLCHESTER — Emily Taubl delivered a splendid performance of the Dvorak Cello Concerto with the Vermont Philharmonic, Saturday at the Elley-Long Music Center. It’s the Mount Everest of cello concertos, and amazingly it was the first time the University of Vermont cello instructor had played it.
Music Director Lou Kosma also led Vermont’s oldest community orchestra in an unusually well attended performance that introduced a fine young pianist, a pastoral work by a jazz composer, and a rich and brilliant introduction by a Vermonter. (The program was repeated Sunday at the Barre Opera House.)
Dvorak’s 1895 Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104, is a big symphonic work, one of the composer’s greatest, and places fierce technical demands upon the soloist and the need for a huge heart. It’s a truly Romantic concerto, and Taubl inhabited the work, delivering the work’s passion as well as its poetry.
The Burlington cellist played with a warm sound that lost none of its singing quality when she let loose. In fact, the opening Allegro was filled with passion, drama and virtuosity, all of which Taubl delivered seemingly naturally. In the slow movement, Adagio ma no troppo, the expressiveness could be a bit reserved in the quieter passages. (This was one of the few indicators that this was her first tine.) But then she warmed up and it was sheer poetry.
The finale was just plain exciting with Taubl enjoying the drama and virtuosity all the way. Taubl has been a Vermont resident for only a few years, but she is certainly making a mark on her chosen state.
The Dvorak is truly a symphonic work, and Kosma and the nearly 60-member Philharmonic delivered its grandeur while remaining sensitive to the soloist throughout. A piece like this truly tests a community concert, and the Philharmonic fared quite well.
Each year, the Philharmonic awards the Borowicz Memorial Student Scholarship, named for the orchestra’s founder, to an area high school student who is then presented in a concerto. Henry Wu of Essex Junction, 16 and a student of Paul Orgel, performed the opening Allegro of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488, with beautiful clarity, articulation and sensitive expressiveness. Although the performance could have afforded a bit more rhythmic incisiveness, it was beautiful Mozart.
In a completely different vein, “Lake Tyrell in Innisfree” by Rufus Reid (b. 1944) does nothing to expose the composer’s jazz roots. Instead, this pastoral and sometimes adventurous journey around the lake opens with a mysterious mistiness. Using gently contemporary harmonic and rhythmic language, it was a sensual and colorful trip, a real pleasure.
The concert opened with the delightful Fanfare in B-flat for Orchestra by Brookfield composer Erik Nielsen (b. 1950). Written in 2014 for the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, it opened with brilliant military brass in rich harmony, with a short orchestral interlude, returning to the brass. As it was only 2 minutes long Kosma and the Philharmonic played it immediately a second time.