Monday, May 5, 2014

Another memorable afternoon

Sarah Shafer
The Independence Sinfonia group keeps raising the bar for itself. Usually, I attend concerts by small, semi-professional orchestras with modest hopes. I’m content with the passable reading of a familiar piece, and I’m willing to forgive the occasional the whining intonations and the ragged tuttis in return for an enthusiastic performance in an intimate venue. But the Independence Sinfonia, under Jerome Rosen, no longer has the cushion of low expectations. Yesterday’s performance of Haydn’s Symphony No. 103 and Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 was as good as any concert in recent memory -- or long-term memory, for that matter. The orchestra played wonderfully, which was all the more impressive since the musicians told me afterward that they had not read through the pieces in their entirety during rehearsals. They had spent all of their time polishing up individual sections, they said. Special mention goes to concertmaster William Phillips, who had meaty solos in both works, and first trumpet Rick Yiensgt, whose fanfares in the first movement of the Mahler nearly reduced me to tears.

The soprano Sarah Shafer, in a royal -blue gown, was touching, wide-eyed presence in “The Heavenly Life,” although, based on what I heard, I can’t judge if she’s destined for the brilliant future Jerry predicted for her. For the performance, she stood back among the woodwinds, which was a mistake, I think, even in the small room at Or Hadesh. But it’s a minor complaint. I could hear every word.

One player summed up the experience afterward by saying, in reference to Jerry Rosen, "It helps to have a retired genius in charge." Then again, I don't think genius every really retires.

On the strength of my preview in the paper, I was invited to the post-concert party. Thanks, Faith, for all the orange juice. Compliments, too, to third trumpet Mark Handler, who provided the chocolate cookies.

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