Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Steamboat Springs This year’s Steamboat Symphony Orchestra holiday concerts were held at Strings Music Pavilion on Saturday and Sunday, and disappointingly there were empty seats Saturday night. Those who didn’t attend missed the opportunity to hear a wonderfully talented community orchestra under the direction of the gifted Ernest Richardson.
The evening began with Concerto Gross in G Minor, Op. 5, “Christmas Concerto,” by Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713), which is in five movements. Richardson described the bass and melody as inversely related; when one goes up, the other goes down.
This is a baroque composition with the constant undercurrent of basso continuo, played by John Sant’Ambrogio on cello and Andrea Schaffner on harpsichord. The last movement was described as allego pastorale. “Largo” is especially joyful and ends in a lullaby. The pastorale part invokes shepherds playing pipes before Nativity scenes, as was the custom in Corelli’s day. This concerto induced a sense of great happiness.
Next was Symphony No. 35 in D major by Mozart (1756-1791). The first movement is serious, the second like a song, the third a minuet, and the fourth, Richardson said, is as though a coquettish wink elicited an off-the-dial exuberant male response. This symphony has no connection to Christmas other than its joyful celebration fitting into the season. Richardson’s direction rendered an exquisitely crisp and elegant performance.
After intermission, the music took on a more familiar Christmas character, beginning with selections from The Nutcracker Suite No. 1, Op. 71a, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) in three sections: Miniature Overture, Characteristic Dances and Waltz of the Flowers, each a Christmas staple. The Waltz of the Flowers was greatly enlivened by lovely harp solos by Tonja Jilling.
Jilling and concert master Teresa Steffen Greenlee then led several members of the Youth Orchestra in “Greensleeves.” Next we heard Carmen Dragon’s arrangement of “O Tannenbaum,” which began softly and became quite loud at the end. Then came Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride,” now a Steamboat tradition, requiring the assistance of two children from the audience: Makayla and Joey.
The evening was brought to a fun conclusion with a communal singalong of seven familiar songs arranged by Matthew Naughtin, beginning with “Joy to the World” and including the heartfelt “What Child is This?” arranged by Richardson, and ending with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
Among the blessings our community ought to treasure this holiday season is our splendid Steamboat Symphony Orchestra and Richardson, its incredibly able music director and conductor, who clearly loves this area as much as we do.