Sunday, January 13, 2008

DPO Plays Albert's Cello Concerto

Guest soloist Julie Albers brought Stephen Albert's masterful Cello Concerto to Dayton this past weekend. The epic piece (it's more than a half-hour long) was written in 1990 for cellist Yo-Yo Ma and is cast in four movements. It is a stunningly gorgeous work that combines big Romantic gestures with modern harmonic language and orchestration. The piano part is sizable and difficult, with plenty of good exposure for the instrument throughout the entire work. It is one of those orchestral parts that provides great satisfaction for the pianist at the end of the day. Tragically, this was one of the last works the accomplished American composer would write; Albert perished in an auto accident in 1992 at the age of 51.

Preparing a convincing and emotionally engaging performance of this work was a great challenge for our orchestra (I believe it would be a challenge for any orchestra). Julie Albers brought lots of intensity and energy to the cello solo, and I think we sold the piece: the audience on both nights responded with great enthusiasm.

It was really great to see large audiences open up to a sophisticated recent work that deserves to be heard more often. It is especially pertinent that this reception occurred within a community many would not associate with great love for newer and more challenging concert music. The time has certainly come for contemporary works that are accessible but don't necessarily pander to the lowest listening abilities of audiences just to get more performances. Younger soloists like Albers are aiding the cause through an exuberance for fresh repertoire and commitment to high-standard performances of that repertoire. Being involved in a performance like this gives me hope that good new music is connecting with broader audiences on deeper emotional levels; perhaps the experience is finally going beyond mere sonic impressions. For goodness sake it's about time.