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SINFONIETTA REVIEW: Final Sinfonietta concert begins next chapter — a new music director

August 16, 2019
By STEVE LESTER - Correspondent ( , Lake Placid News

The Lake Placid Sinfonietta completed its six-week season at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts on Sunday, Aug. 11 under the direction of Peter Rubardt, the third and final candidate to audition for the job of music director for next year.

The evening began with the uplifting overture to Rossini's opera "La scala di seta," followed by Mozart's fifth violin concerto performed by the 34-year-old Bulgarian native Bella Hristova on an Amati violin built in 1655, 101 years before Mozart's birth. Hristova, who studied in Philadelphia at the Curtis Institute of Music, had a commanding stage presence to go along well with her total command of her nearly priceless violin.

The concerto offers plenty of exciting moments for the performer to show off her abilities as Hristova sailed through it by memory without so much as a noticeable hiccup anywhere on an instrument with a tone so rich that such barn dance standards as "Turkey in the Straw" may not sound recognizable on it. And yet despite all the stellar moments played so flawlessly on such a priceless instrument, the piece doesn't evoke an exceptionally exciting ovation at the end because of its soft landing finish instead of a big bang.

It's like doing aerobatics in a supersonic X-15 in which the pilot pulls up at the end and gently sets the craft down on the tarmac with next to no drama. The moment, however, was not lost on the audience. As the house lights came up for intermission many showed gape-mouthed expressions of wonderment over what they'd just witnessed.

The second half began gently with Honegger's "Pastorale d'ete," a soft, dreamy offering to evoke images of summers in the Swiss Alps.

Schubert's Symphony No. 5 rounded out the evening prior to the traditional final movement to Haydn's "Farewell" Symphony No. 45 in which the musicians leave the stage one by one until only the concertmaster remains. The piece reflects Haydn's famous sense of humor as he delivered a subtle message to his employer, Prince Esterhazy, that his musicians could use a little time off to go home and see their families. Legend has it that the prince got the hint and granted an extended leave period in short order.

Rubardt and the other two candidates, Stuart Malina and Kynan Johns, all appeared to be likeable individuals who connected well their audiences and musicians. They all demonstrated thorough knowledge of their music along with the conducting technique to communicate their wishes to the players as they demonstrated the professionalism required for the job. So then, how does one decide between three such strong candidates? It could all boil down to just style and appearance.

Rubardt is like "Uncle Casual." Gentle, white haired, soft spoken, and slightly hunched over, he wears no jacket nor tie while leaving his collar unbuttoned. He dresses the same way as the orchestra men do and does not conduct from the podium. He's like your avuncular one among equals.

If you're into hipsters, then maybe Malina is your man. The Tony award winner for his collaboration with Billy Joel for the musical "Movin' Out" sports stylish facial hair to go along with his bald pate. He plays a mean piano from which he'll also conduct if playing "Rhapsody In Blue." Otherwise he conducts from the floor the way Rubardt does but takes the fashion statement a step higher by wearing a tie.

If it comes down to a simple beauty contest, then it's Johns all the way. Tall and hunky with a full head of hair that's still the original color, Maestro Stud Muffin wears a tux, conducts from the podium, and adds a charming foreign accent for good measure.

A number of people have asked this writer who his choice is, but he doesn't care one way or the other. They're all solid musicians who know how to conduct.

Straws anyone?



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