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Smaller symphony hits the mark

On Feb. 11, the Albany Symphony took the stage to play its fourth program for the 2011-12 season. It was a smaller orchestra this time without the robust sound that we’re used to hearing, but it’s guest conductor, the flamboyant Russian Dimitry Sitkovetsky, made it play with a verve and virtuosity that matched that of it two brilliant young guest soloists, Melissa White and Juan Miguel Hernandez.

Sitkovetsky altered the program a bit, adding Mozart’s Overture to the Marriage of Figaro at the beginning followed by his Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat Major, K. 364.

What is a Concertante? We know what a Concerto is. Right? A large (or long) piece, usually in three movements, for a single solo instrument and Orchestra. Well, a concertant (pronounced: con-sayr-TAHNT) is written for two (or more) solo instruments and orchestra.

Composers with ruminating imaginations think up these things. Sometimes they don’t name them; they just write them and leave the naming up to us poor historians, musicologists or publishers. And they really don’t care whether they get named or not. They just want publishers to print them and musicians to play them.

The Concertant followed the Overture where the two young soloists showed their mettle. The African-American violinist, Melissa White, and the Hispanic-American violist, Juan Miguel Hernandez, were absolute in the mastery of their instruments, while Maestro Sitkovetsky was just that — a consummate master of the whole shebang.

One could not help but marvel at the overarching genius from whose imagination all this sprang. We were reminded of the thinking of violinist Sonja Sonia Sonnenberg as she was playing the violin concerto of another grand master: “... and as all the sounds of this thing were going through my ears ... I kept thinking: my god, some guy wrote this!” Yep, some guy wrote this thing too; and his name was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91). He was not blessed with a long life. That life, like Schubert’s (1797-1828), had to be substituted, it seems, for the incomparable creative qualities that they bequeathed to the world.

Next, the orchestra launched upon Tchaikovsky’s Fantasy Overture “Romeo and Juliet.” I’m thinking, “Tonight’s orchestra is too small for this big work.” I had not counted on Sitkovetsky’s approach to it. He eschewed opting for the big sound, choosing, instead, ensemble exactitude through deft cueing; substituting the big sound for nigh perfect playing in all departments of the orchestra. The results? A wholly satisfactory rendition and full-borne satisfying interpretation.

The closing works, Aram Kachaturian’s “Adagio” from Spartacus and Phrygia and Camille St. Saens’ “Danse Bacchanale” from Samson et Delilah received the careful, romantic and impressive treatment they deserved.

We sincerely appreciated Dimitry Sitkovetsky’s work with this orchestra and we hope he’ll visits us again.

James Marquis is emeritus professor of music, retired, at Albany State University.