Sant’Ambrogio dazzles with orchestra

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Watching cellist Sara Sant’Ambrogio play the Haydn Cello Concerto No. 2 in D Major on Sunday was a chance to watch a musician fall in love all over again with a piece she’s known for years.

The featured soloist on an afternoon that also highlighted four more locally oriented orchestra players, Sant’Ambrogio delivered a heart-filled performance of the Haydn, one of her signature performance pieces.

Introducing the guest artist, Steamboat Springs Orchestra Music Director Ernest Richardson described Sant’Ambrogio as a player who has mastered the technical part of her craft and has moved on to transcend the notes on the page and the way they’re played.

From the cadenza solo section in the first movement, through the simple elegance of the second part and on to the technical fireworks of the third, Sant’Ambrogio made the piece, which has been around for more than 300 years, her own.

Swaying with the work’s main theme, Sant’Ambrogio triumphed in each note, adjusting tuning between movements to make sure the higher pitches soared. During the cadenza in the first movement, she played to a hushed Steamboat Christian Center hall, drawing the most out of each forceful bow movement to give a narrative quality to her solo section.

Coming back to the stage for an encore, the guest cellist played the prelude from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, a selection from one of the two albums she released in 2009. With perfect inflection, grace and, again, obvious love for the music, Sant’Ambrogio is able to draw every possible emotion from any piece, even if it’s only a few minutes long.

Earlier in the program, Steamboat Springs native Patrick Williams starred on the orchestra’s performance of Bach’s Suite No. 2 for Flute in B minor. A conservatory student at Oberlin College, Williams hit each note with intent, breezing through the difficult final dance movement to enthusiastic applause from the full audience.

Corelli’s Concerto Grosso in D Major opened the program. Steamboat Springs Orchestra members Teresa Steffen Greenlee, Bonnie Murray and John Sant’Ambrogio worked easily through the interplay on the piece’s brisk sections.

Accessible as always, the orchestra put together a midwinter concert that would have been palatable for any listener, giving plenty of inlets into classical music. The ensemble closes its 2009-10 season March 28 with a concert featuring Dvorak’s stirring New World Symphony. Learn more at www.steamboatorchestra.org.

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