The Maryville College Community Orchestra opened their 2014 spring performance on April 27 with Guiseppe Verdi’s religiously and politically charged commercial success “Nabucco Overture.”
Nabucco retells the biblical story of the slavery and eventual exile of the Jews under the
Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. In spite of the dark story, the score is full of memorable
melodies. Although the operatic plot isn’t revealed in the overture performance, the audience can appreciate the musical subtleties of the distinct and variable nature of the piece.
Nabucco, like most of his opera overtures, is a mélange of themes, most of which reappear later in the opera. After a stately introduction in the brass and a more sinister transition, Verdi spun a gentle variation on “Va pensiero,”or “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves,” heard first in the oboe and clarinet playing in octaves. In the faster music that followed, the overture juxtaposed different themes associated with the Hebrew slaves and with their Babylonian captors, neatly foreshadowing the opera’s central conflict.
The first piece steam rolled to the end with an excited accelerando, reaching full speed and resolving solidly in full orchestration.
Next on the program is Mozart’s “Flute Concerto in G Major.” Guest soloist, Jan Vinci
brought the flute to her lips as conductor Mathew Wilkinson readies his baton. Vinci motioned her entire body for the beginning piece, moving her shoulders back on the downbeat.
The opening of the second movement resembled the famous theme from the Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss, Jr., which was composed many years later. Vinci completed the slower, more lyrical second movement before maneuvering her way through intricate sixteenth note passages in the third movement, a rondo, ending the concerto in a flourish.
At the end of the standard intermission, dimmed lights signaled the beginning of the second program half.
Multi-instrumentalist, composer, and arranger; current faculty member at Skidmore College and SUNY Purchase; and husband to flute soloist Jan Vinci, Mark Vinci has performed in big bands with Woody Herman, Gerry Mulligan, Maria Schneider and the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band
although his casual appearance and energetic demeanor set concert-goers at ease.
“I knew I wanted to play jazz ever since I was a kid and I was asked to play the Star Spangled banner,” Mark Vinci said. “You know how it goes.”
He played the melody straight momentarily before improvising on the melody, adding a blues scale and ending the section with a standard Christmas carol for fun.
With an impish sense of humor Mark Vinci detailed the upcoming piece on the program, a composition of his own. Created at the commission of his wife Jan, “TINGsha Bom t-Bom ti-Bom” possessed an avant-garde style as unique as the composition’s name. Vinci demonstrated his non-conformist attitude, giving his world premiere piece a title that many would agree gave notice to a Satie-like characteristic.
Vinci’s “TINGsha” utilized uncommon instrumental textures, sounds and harmonies,
interspersed jazz elements and interesting instrumental combinations including: a lilting flute
solo with bass, flute and an open snare and the usage of the Tibetan bell the Tingsha.
“My goal was to write something that suited the flute,” Mark Vinci said. “Just because you have all the instruments doesn’t necessarily mean you have to use them in a certain way.”
The piece had attitude, a certain sadness, and often an ambivalence that would resolve itself using certain pathways, sometimes unpredictably, but never unsatisfying in the aspect of musical diversity.
“We don’t need another Mozart Concerto,” Mark Vinci said jokingly. “I want to play to the
rhythm and to the instrument.”
The orchestra ended the concert the way they started by performing another overture, this time utilizing the dark, rich texture characteristic of Brahms’ compositions. The “Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80” was composed during the summer of 1880 as a musical “thank you” to the University of Breslau, which had awarded him an honorary doctorate the previous year.
The robust work sparkled with some of the finest virtues of Brahms’s orchestral technique which succinctly engaged Brahms’s sophisticated mastery of counterpoint. The accomplished group of musicians performed energetically, matching well the musical disposition Brahms manages to evoke, and ravishing euphoria without sacrificing a commitment to classical balance.