For starters, you can’t beat Bach

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For starters, you can’t beat Bach

Brandenburg Concerto gets double play at festival
Conservatory Artistic Director Arkady Fomin conducts the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major by J.S. Bach during the Conservatory Gala at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College.
The winners of the Conservatory Young Artist Competition are recognized for their accomplishment during the Conservatory Gala Friday night at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College.
The cello section plays Octet in E-flat Major during Friday’s Conservatory Gala at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College.
Hong Yu Jin plays Sonata for Piano by S. Barber on Friday night during the Conservatory Gala at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College.
Yeon Min Park accepts her ovation as grand prize winner of the Conservatory Young Artist Competition on Friday during the Conservatory Gala at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College.
Sights don’t live up to sounds

In a rare but serious miscalculation, Music in the Mountains staged the multi-media presentation “Symphonic Sights & Sounds” of three dramatic works at the Community Concert Hall on Sunday night.
One wonders why anyone needed to tart up a strong musical program with less than professional video projections. Poorly timed, sour in color, not to mention a preference for detail over whole works of art, the concert’s visual components were counterproductive to the music. What happened?
Someone must have thought this idea was edgy, contemporary and/or artistic. It was none of the above. The video presentation was organized by Robin Rupe of Volti Subito Inc., an Albuquerque business. In introductory remarks, conductor Guillermo Figueroa saluted the company’s artistic quality, so it was astonishing to see such an amateurish production.
That being said, the orchestra performed magnificently. The opening Nielsen overture to the sun was nothing if not mesmerizing. We simply didn’t need a progression of seascapes from sunrise to sundown. The music was evocative enough, especially the splendid fugue at the center – high noon.
Violinist Ida Kavafian’s performance of the tortuous contemporary work, “Fire and Blood,” by Michael Daugherty, alternated between extreme tension and fleeting moments of lyrical melancholy. The work was commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 2003 to commemorate the controversial political murals painted by Diego Rivera in the 1920s. The murals and the music are full of anger. Edsel Ford, who sponsored the murals, was appalled at Rivera’s social realism, pitting humanity against the cold machinery of heartless capitalism. All that fury came through in the music.
Throughout its three movements, the work exhibits the anxiety of the machine age. Kavafian’s dexterity was dazzling as she navigated intricate passages and never let up on Daugherty’s fast and furious tempo. Figueroa and his orchestra rose to Kavafian’s level of performance, and it was, indeed, thrilling. The rage came through the music, not Rupe’s slow panning or jumps to one-camera close-ups of Kavafian.
The visuals rarely matched the power or the dynamic shifts in the first movement. The second movement, a tribute to Rivera’s wife, Frida Kahlo, was full of pathos, deeply tragic in its remembrance of illness and suffering. Rupe gave us slow visual crawls over several Kahlo paintings, especially her self portrait with hospital bed, blood and a floating stillborn baby. It was the most effective visualization in the entire concert.
Otherwise, Rupe jarringly alternated between Rivera’s details and Kavafian close-ups. It was an unnerving distraction and overall didn’t enhance the music. The orchestra was marvelous and deserved the thunderous applause.
The last half of the concert featured Mussorgsky’s grand “Pictures at an Exhibition.” When Music in the Mountains last performed the work in the Concert Hall, it was also presented with a visual program. National Geographic photographer Dean Conger, who made more than 30 trips to the former Soviet Union, has a Russian photographic archive to be envied. In 1998, Mischa Semanitzky approached Conger about collaborating on a multi-media concert.
Conger spent six months selecting and choreographing his Russian images into a beautiful accompaniment to Mussorgsky’s music. At the beginning of each section, he briefly showed the Viktor Hartmann painting which inspired Mussorgsky.
Then Conger employed a visual theme for each. Images of Russian children, parents, lovers, old people, factory workers, big cities and small villages, plus various ballet companies filled the wide screen. all perfectly timed to each section of music.
People left the concert hall inspired by Mussorgsky’s sweeping vision and by the deep humanity of Conger’s photographs.
Sunday night, we heard a marvelous orchestral reading of Mussorgsky’s work and saw a disjointed, random selection of Hartmann’s art.
There was little connection between music and visual material. Figueroa himself admitted that Hartmann’s paintings were minor works, barely worth remembering. So why develop a program lingering over pale sketches and blurry details?
In addition, something was wrong with projection. A sour yellow background persisted throughout the Mussorgsky. Odd solarized images of an empty picture gallery and warehouse kept reappearing – barren and disconnected.
Did anyone check the equipment? Did anyone check the focus? Did anyone seriously look at the content mismatch?
Blurry images dominated the musically brilliant closing sections. During the “Great Gate of Kiev,” brass fanfares billowed, chimes rang and the full orchestra played with passionate intensity.
The agonizingly slow scan of Hartmann’s forgettable gate drawing hovered on the screen, completely undercutting the magnificence of the music.
I left the concert hall feeling badly for the musicians who gave a remarkable performance. As I said, a rare and serious miscalculation.
Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic. Reach her at jreynolds@durangoherald.com.

Review & Preview

“Bach’s Gift,” chamber concert, Thursday, July 19, St. Columba Catholic Church.
Conservatory Gala, Conservatory Young Artists and orchestra, Friday, July 20, Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College.
“Symphonic Sights & Sounds,” Festival Orchestra, Sunday, July 22, Community Concert Hall.
Today:“Wondrous Variety,” chamber concert; works by Beethoven, Douglas and Dohnanyi, 7 p.m., $15-$39, Festival Tent at Durango Mountain Resort.
Wednesday: “Americana Celebration,” Festival Orchestra with guest conductor Carl Topilow, 7 p.m., $20-$49, Festival Tent at Durango Mountain Resort.
Wednesday: “Trio Night,” Clavier Trio, 7:30 p.m., $10-$18, Roshong Recital Hall at Fort Lewis College.
Thursday: “Mountain Beat,” chamber concert, 7 p.m., $15-$39, Festival Tent at Durango Mountain Resort.
Tickets and information are available at www.musicinthemountains.com or by phone at 385-6820.

For starters, you can’t beat Bach

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Conservatory Artistic Director Arkady Fomin conducts the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major by J.S. Bach during the Conservatory Gala at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College.
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The winners of the Conservatory Young Artist Competition are recognized for their accomplishment during the Conservatory Gala Friday night at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College.
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The cello section plays Octet in E-flat Major during Friday’s Conservatory Gala at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College.
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Hong Yu Jin plays Sonata for Piano by S. Barber on Friday night during the Conservatory Gala at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College.
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Yeon Min Park accepts her ovation as grand prize winner of the Conservatory Young Artist Competition on Friday during the Conservatory Gala at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College.
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