Energy. Verve. At last Saturday’s festival concert, everything seemed youthful, full of light.
Appropriately titled “Flights of Fancy,” the second to last Music in the Mountains concert of the season experienced varying amounts of fresh rain, but nothing could dim a particularly bright program or stellar performance.
Mozart’s Symphony No. 36, in C Major opened the evening with a clear-as-cut-glass reading by the orchestra under Conductor Guillermo Figueroa. Apparently written at breakneck speed when the composer was only 27, the symphony has never been known as overworked.
Figueroa breezed through all four movements with his own brand of professional ease. The moderately lively first movement slipped into its spirited conclusion before lightly touching down in the second movement for a true adagio.
Figueroa led the spritely minuet by conducting it in “one” rather than three, all but dancing in what seemed to be relaxed delight. The finale, a very fast presto, had the orchestra buzzing.
Every motif, every rhythmic pattern and every mood found precise expression – just what music in the Enlightenment might have captured 230 years ago.
Tchaikovsky’s difficult and demanding Violin Concerto turned out to be a brilliant emotional and musical contrast. Inserted into Saturday’s program only this week, the first movement became part of the program as a result of the Conservatory Competition.
On July 15, violinist Jacqueline Audas closed a sparkling evening of a dozen student performers with her interpretation of the Tchaikovsky piece. She captured the audience’s heart and the judges’ accolades.
Audas, 17, is a cool virtuoso. She has mastered the technically challenging concerto and plays with assurance. At the competition and the formal performance Saturday, she focused on her violin throughout, glancing up at Figueroa only twice. Otherwise, Audas was a study in concentration, and her performance one of interior intensity.
On the one hand, it’s appropriate when a musician is young and mastering technique. It’s far better than a swooning emotional interpretation, often a cover for moderate technical achievement.
But there is a middle ground that gifted musicians must move through to lift performance to the level of high art. For lack of better words, it’s a balance between dazzling virtuosity and profound expression. Presumably, Audas will find that balance as she matures.
After intermission, the rain subsided somewhat, and Figueroa led the orchestra through the 1945 version of “The Firebird.” Like Mozart’s youthful symphony, Stravinsky’s ballet music was composed in his mid 20s. “Firebird” is full of experimentation, verve and colorful ensemble passages. Figueroa emphasized the contrasts, floating gossamer sections with easy grace, bringing everything to a quiet pause, then unleashing a torrent of sound.
He was well aided by bold and exacting percussion and brass sections. The strings, often muted, spun out the mistiest of textures. Oboist Erin Hannigan introduced ethereal motifs; French hornist Greg Hustis startled with one particularly fine pianissimo. And bassoonist Laura Leisring sent sky trails aloft more than once.
Credit Hustis and Figueroa for programming such a winning concert. Credit the musicians and a talented young soloist for delivering the goods in a very tight overall performance.
Despite the rain, Saturday’s musical evening on the mountain turned out to be all light and energy.
email@example.com. Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic.