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May 05, 1979 - Image 8

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1979-05-05

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Page 8-Saturday, May 5, 1979-The Michigan Daily
Packed estival a riump

This year's May Festival provided a
truly fitting climax to the centennial
season of the University Muscial
Society. As x in previous years, the
Philadelphis Orchestra made its spring
visit to Ann Arbor. For Music Director
Eugene Ormandy, it was the 42nd an-
nual festival appearance, bringing the
number of his Ann Arbor concerts to
142. Maestro Ormandy announced
several weeks ago he will retire in
August of 1980, making next year's
festival appearance his last.
The performances were remarkable
and memorable. Each of the four
nights, Hill Auditorium was filled with
a standing-room-only crowd,
illustrating the excitement, attrac-
tiveness, and international scope and
fame of the Ann Arbor May Festival.
The main feature of the festival, of
course, was great musicianship by the
orchestra, conductors, and soloists in
performing a wife variety of music. The
composers ranged from Mozart to Hin-
demith and also included Ravel,
Prokofiev, Wagner, Rossini,
Beethoven, Verdi, Tchaikovsky and
Mendelssohn, and each was given
careful, appropriate treatment by the
performers. This gave the festival
patrons a wonderful taste of consisten-
cy within diversity and really made the
whole event a success.
THE FESTIVAL really began before
it began, with a "bonus" concert on
Monday, April 23-a recital by soprano
Victoria de los Angeles and pianist
Alicia de Larrocha. The two artists per-
formed a program of music from their
native Spain.
A fantastic voice is not necessary to
perform this music-these songs come
from the heart, and Mme. de los
Angeles did not use her purest operatic
voice, but sang with a broad, loose tone
with deep, passionate emotions of
laughter, mourning, regrets and pain.
Alicia de Larrocha's accompaniment
was also quite loose, but always sen-
sitive and technically fine. Her playing
was a perfect complement to the
soprano's voice. The Siete Canciones by
de Falla was very difficult and much
more complex than the other pieces,
but the two artists handled them with
ease and with an equal amount of ex-
pression as the other works. Perhaps
only other Spanish artists could do half
as well.

Philadelphia Orchestra opened the first
concert of the May Festival with Vic-
toria de los Angeles as soprano soloist
on Wednesday, April 25 in a program of
early 20th Century orchestral works
and some classic operatic excerpts.
In performing the demanding or-
chestral numbers: Synphony, "Mathis
der Maler," by Hindemith, Ravel's
"Scheherazade" for Soprano and Or-
chestra, and the Scythian Suite by
Prokofiev, the Philadelphia Orchestra
gave its best performance of the
festival. Throughout the evening it
displayed Ormandy's unmistakable
"Philadelphia sound," which many
other orchestras try to copy-from the
lush, sweetly singing violins, to the
firm, broad tones of the basses and the
precise woodwinds and brass. All of this
gorgeous sound is tied together with
almost unreal unity and clarity.
THE CONTRASTING sections of the
Hindemith symphony were highlighted
by the brass and strings with careful
use of various dynamics and tone
colors. Here the group gave a good
example of its versatility.
VOCAL and orchestral textures were
intertwined with romantic grace in
Ravel's Scheherazade.Mme. de los
Angeles' voice had an enticing
tone-her diction and expression were
beautiful, and her intonation nearly
perfect as she exploded Ravel's im-
pressionistic (as he claimed to have
followed Debussy) tale with expression
and fluidity.
Prokofiev, who at the same time was
imitating Stravinsky, wrote his
Scythian Suite in highly rhythmic, often
repetitive patterns using a very large
orchestra. The sound of the Orchestra
was very loud, even awesome, but still
under control, and the effect especially
in the demonic dance of the second
movement was thunderous and bom-
bastic. They played with that level of
excitement only a few times during the
rest of the festival.
Mme. de los Angeles rounded out the
rest of the evening with three famous
operatic excerpts. Her coloratura in-
tonation here was clear and precise,
her diction clean and quick, and she
still had a fair degree of meaningful
The first concert probably qualifies
as the best of the festival just because
of the program's variety and the almost
flawless performances of de los
Angeles, Ormandy, and the Orchestra.
ON THURSDAY, April 26, a capacity
crowd again filled Hill. This time, the
program consisted of Mendelssohn's
Third Symphony and Tchaikovsky's
Fifth, with the Philadelphia Orchestra
conducted by Riccardo Muti, Principal

Guest Conductor.
Muti easily won the audience's favor,
and he seems to bea capable successor
to Ormandy. Both Ormandy and Muti
are great conductors for an audience to
watch because their motions make-
fairly evident the sounds they desire.
For Muti, the biggest moment of the
whole festival came when he conducted
Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony. Com-
pared to it, the Mendelssohn symphony
came across blandly, although
everything went pretty well for both the
conductor and the orchestra. The
audience adored Muti after hearing the

Tchaikovsky-I have never heard more
people shout "bravo" in Hill. This must
have reflected the crowd's familiarity
with the war horse because the or-
chestra actially had greater precision
and a better tone on the previous night.
In the first movement, Muti could not
control the volume of the brass and the
woodwinds, but this was his only real
problem during the performance. The
second movement was given an
especially moving and emotional ren-
dition and the french horn solo was
especially expressive and has a
beautiful tone. Here, the orchestra
really began to respond to Muti and it
was evident he had rehearsed them
well. The third movement (waltz) was
played casually, yet with confidence.
The overall texture was smooth and
joyful and Muti used many novel holds
and bar breaks. Muti's tempo changes
and abrupt crescendoes in the final
movement were starlting at first. The
maestoso was very slow and grandand
the coda was fast and exciting, and
Muti nulled everything together with
great cohesion and gigantic sound. By
the final bars she had left a very
thoughful mark on the work. As men-
tioned before, the audience thought all
of this was great and Muti was called
back on stage for four bows in front of a
standing ovation.
ON FRIDAY, April 27, Mr. Muti
returned to conduct an all Beethoven
program. The two orchestral works, the
Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72a and the
Symphony No. 6 in F major,
("Pastorale"), were both given rather
uninspired performarices, even though
Muti tried to change tempos a little to
lend more excitement to the works. The
overture suffered from problems of
balance and precision and the flute
soloist lost tempo and some notes,
floundering terribly, but Muti brought

the orchestra to a rousing finish
The symphony was played better.
Each selection of the orchestra was
clearly defined and in good balance
with the others and Muti took a light
The star of this show was certainly
Alicia de Larrocha, the Spanish pianist
who has become a favorite of Ann Ar-
bor audiences and music lovers around
the world. Mme. de Larrocha perfor-
med Beethoven's Concerto No. 3 in C
minor, Op. 37. Her touch when playing
music from the Viennese period is
amazing. Her tone is light, but her con-
trol is firm, and her arpeggios, scales
and trills are in perfect time and almost
unbelievably even. Friday night, her
command of the notes and sureness of
expression were rock steady and the
smoldering fire of Beethoven's charac-
ter was easily felt. Although Mme. de
Larrocha does not have the crashing
power of a Horowitz, her technique is
probably without equal. Muti and the
orchestra followed her will, never
becoming overwhelming, and always
supportive and in tempo.
THE FESTIVAL ended on Saturday,
April 28, with Ormandy conducting a
single work, Verdi's "Manzoni"
Requiem. The massive composition in-
cluded the Ann Arbor debut of the four
soloists, Alma Jean Smith, soprano,
Alexandrina Milcheva, contralto,
Zurab Sotkilava, tenor, and Martti
Talvela, bass. It is very rare to hear a
performance where all the soloists are
of nearly equal talent, but these four
were all great-not only individually
but also as a quartet.
The University Choral Union also
sang with inspiration. Their intonation
and tone were superb, especially in the
crescendoes. In the Sanctus, singing
with full volume and having the
unleashed power of the Philadelphia
Orchestra behind them, the beams (and
seats and walls too) really were
ringing. I have never heard a sound
quite like it before.
Those four nights made quite a
festival and a grand conclusion to a
memorable centennial season.
The Daily Arts page is still in dire
need of people to write about virtually
everything-rock, classical music, folk,
dance, fine arts, photography, film,
poetry, and prose. No pay, but terrific
company and some fringe benefits.
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