By Art Connor
William H. Lowman Concert Hall Grand Opening and Alumni Orchestra Concert, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24
Overture to “The Marriage of Figaro,” K. 492 — Mozart
Tzigane for Violin and Orchestra (1924) — Ravel
Piano Concerto in G Major (1932) — Ravel
Symphony #41 in C Major (“Jupiter”), K. 551 — Mozart
Simeon Simeonov, violin; Michael Noble, piano
Larry Livingston and Ransom Wilson, conductors
Given the necessity of observing both the founding of Idyllwild Arts Academy and the construction of a most modern concert space, it was inevitable that the two events be celebrated together in a most spectacular way, and those events totaled up to a “grand opening” indeed, even though previous performances had been held in the brand-new facility.
With the cooperation of President Pamela Jordan and William Lowman himself, not to mention the nearly 50 alumni, faculty and guest participants, the audience in the nearly full auditorium received what it truly deserved in the way of the start of a new IA tradition, as well as a series of spectacular musical showmanship.
Beginning with the opening “Figaro” overture, the regular orchestra’s conductor Larry Livingston took the assembled players on a light and sparkling tour of one of Mozart’s happiest creations, and inspired both string and wind performances that reached to the heights and breadths of the hall.
After short speeches by Ms. Jordan and Mr. Lowman (the latter a continuation of his remarks which took place outside the building), the remainder of the evening proved to be a credit to Conductor Ransom Wilson, and two of the more distinguished ISOMATA/IA graduates. Mr. Simeonov brought Ravel’s Tzigane to its ultimate expression of a pseudo-Lisztian rhapsody (particularly in the opening solo portion), and the younger Mr. Noble brought the proper amount of virtuosity to Ravel’s G Major concerto, especially in the outer movements’ combination of jazzy dash and propulsion, plus the slow movement’s Erik Satie-like dreamy inspiration.
Mr. Wilson’s orchestral contributions were more than mere perfunctory accompanying throughout; the percussion battery was well in evidence (particularly in the concerto) and exemplary wind and brass contributions were equally well-timed (and well-tuned) to the situation.
And it was with the concluding account of the “Jupiter” symphony that Mr. Wilson brought the evening all together, with a personally heartfelt and holistic (yet nonetheless dramatic) reading. In particular, the outer movements’ drive, which should represent not Zeus hurling thunderbolts as much as Mozart’s having the most fun possible with the C major scale, was treated as if impetus alone was responsible for the work itself. The slow movement might not have been exactly “cantabile” as indicated, and the minuet might not have had the exact Viennese savor, but the alums and guest performers truly outdid themselves in virtually all their efforts.
The fugal portions of the final movement proved more exciting to this listener on this occasion, providing an appropriate conclusion to the proceedings, and audience response was immediate and on target for this as well as for the preceding programmed items.
So, in summation, this performance not only signaled the start of a new season, but also prospects of further improvements for the concert hall, and the IA faculty and student body.