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SINFONIETTA REVIEW: Sinfonietta ends season as music director announces departure after 2018

August 18, 2017
By STEVE LESTER , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID -The Lake Placid Sinfonietta at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts on Sunday, Aug. 13 completed its 100th season with a triumphal concert of mostly classical era works during which Music Director Ron Spigelman announced that he did not intend to renew his contract after next year.

Without going into specifics, Mr. Spigelman alluded mostly to family obligations as the primary reason. He auditioned for the job in 2009, he said, and has been wielding the baton for eight years. The orchestra's board asked that he stay on for one more year beyond the 2018 season, but despite being honored by the request, he chose to make next year his last while leaving open the possibility of returning to guest conduct and generally staying connected in some capacity.

With the wind section effectively seated on welcome risers, Mr. Spigelman opened the concert directing the lively overture to Rossini's comic opera "The Barber of Seville" that can conjure up many images of Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd going at it in the classic cartoon "The Rabbit of Seville."

Then after a lengthy monologue describing the following piece, Beethoven's "Violin Concerto in D Major," he introduced guest soloist Soovin Kim, who promptly took the microphone and said - appropriately - "At risk of too much talk "

Although he could have kept his own monologue shorter, the 41-year-old violinist nevertheless made an instant connection to the audience relating how his parents moved to Plattsburgh some 30 years ago and still live there, only recently deciding to relocate.

He gained international recognition at age 20 after taking first prize in the Paganini International Competition. The audience was so taken by his performance they broke into wild applause as many jumped to their feet before realizing he still had two more movements to go.

Unlike at the premiere in 1806 when the ink had barely dried, which forced the soloist to practically sight read the lengthy and demanding work, Mr. Kim played from memory as he displayed total mastery of the violin with a distinctively smooth technique that almost made it look too easy while emitting a warm tone all his own with hardly a trace of stridency even as he reached for the highest possible notes on the neck.

The LPCA audience, which seems to love individual performance above all, responded predictably when the piece finally came to an end with everyone standing this time and applauding loudly.

In keeping with the evening's theme of "Finally Triumphant" that featured musical works that never caught on with the public until long after the composers had died, the second half featured Schubert's 4th Symphony composed when he was just 19. Mr. Spigelman surmised that he may have attached the nickname "Tragic" to it as a way of attracting the attention of potential publishers, the irony being that very little of it sounds very tragic. On the contrary, it's a very uplifting and lively work in four movements the Sinfonietta performed with gusto and bravado.

The evening closed with the traditional playing of the finale to Haydn's "Farewell" Symphony written in 1772 as a protest statement to his employer, the prominent Esterhazy family, for overworking the orchestra and preventing them from going home to see their own families while forcing them to stay in crowded and uncomfortable servant's quarters.

As the piece is performed, one by one the musicians get up, extinguish a candle off to the side of the stage, take a farewell bow and exit the stage until only the concertmaster, Daniel Szasz, remains playing the final measures.

As the story goes, Prince Esterhazy got the hint and soon declared an extended leave period for his orchestra. As for the Sinfonietta, they'll take an extended leave from Lake Placid until next summer as they return for what appears to be Mr. Spigelman's last season as music director.

The 20-piece orchestra's 100th season did not disappoint. Despite the rigorous performance and rehearsal schedule these highly accomplished musicians always performed with passion and enthusiasm.

The season's high and low points occurred on the same performance during week four with pianist Joyce Yang closing out the first half by setting the place on fire with her electrifying performance of Liszt and Chopin followed by an encore of Gershwin, only to have the second have programming of incidental play music by Sibelius, "Pelleas and Melisande," result in a big, boring goose egg laid on stage.

The season's most awkward moment came during the first concert after Mr. Spigelman introduced pianist Olga Kern to come out and play Beethoven's "Emperor Concerto" only to have her totally MIA. The audience then had to wait until somebody went downstairs to fish her out of her dressing room.

The moment the orchestra may want to repeat every year came during week five with the addition of 10 former and potentially future players to perform Sibelius's "Finlandia." With most of the added players sitting in the wind section, the orchestra took on a new sound that expanded its capabilities into late 19th and 20th century pieces rarely heard here.

Half the concerts, including the one on Aug. 13, were sold out while two of the remaining three still had sizeable crowds with few remaining seats.

The July 23 concert was the only one with considerable seating available most likely because large numbers of people chose to either leave town or avoid town because of the Ironman competition.

If this trend continues as more people seem drawn to real live human experiences away from their TV, computer and cellphone screens in favor of this little powerhouse orchestra, there may have to be discussions on moving to a larger venue or expanding the one they're already in.

Ever wonder what a balcony would look like in the LPCA's concert hall?



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