The New West Symphony performed this past Sunday at Barnum Hall under the direction of conductor Marcelo Lehninger and cello soloist extraordinaire, Lynn Harrell.
Lynn opened the concert with a wonderful performance of the Dvorak Cello Concerto in B minor, Opus 104 that can only be described as one of the greatest solo concertos for any instrument. Lynn is one of the great cellists of this generation who has enjoyed a phenomenal career.
This performance was exciting, heartfelt and brilliant. The orchestra under the helm of this great conductor, Lehninger provided an exciting and dynamic accompaniment. Lynn is still at the top of his game and the concerto is certainly the favorite of all cellists to perform. If there was anything that could be said to be missing it was the great Montagnana cello that he played for most of his career. He now plays a modern instrument that really does not quite compare with his former companion. He, never the less, still sounded like the great Lynn Harrell and the musical line was always singing and performed with great heart.
The opening cello entrance is not subtle and that theme is brought back often. He played the opening with wonderful virtuosity and the later soaring melodies with great passion. This concerto is certainly his friend and few could have matched him in this performance. This great Bohemian composer wrote the work and some of his most famous works while in New York City in 1892-95, including the New World Symphony. The second movement is a spiritual homage to his sister in law, Josepfina Kaunitzova who was ill at the time and died shortly after his return his homeland. The 3rd movement, Rondo offered us the best playing yet and brings back the themes of the earlier movements. Besides the magnificent playing of Lynn Harrell, the concerto offered the audience a chance to hear some of the fine wind players in the orchestra including clarinet player, Josh Fried and horn player, James Thatcher.
The orchestra soared through most of the concerto giving a glimpse of what was to come in the second half. We were then treated to a terrific performance of the 2nd Symphony of Johannes Brahms. This work premiered in Vienna in 1877. He wrote the symphony while at a castle in the Carinthian hills of southern Austria in a short period of time. It was homage to nature for him and wonderful melodies abound throughout the piece. The Symphony was often compared to Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. The orchestration is Brahms at his finest. Lehninger was fantastic with a faultless technique and a passion that is returned by his orchestra. The New West Symphony under his baton is probably the next best in town after the LA Phil. He has made this orchestra a force for great music in LA and along with Gustavo Dudamel has brought the passion of classical music to the Southland.
The audience was on their feet after both performances and we even had a small treat as Lynn’s adorable son joined him on stage for the bows to the delight of the public. Do check out the schedule of future concerts at www.newwestsymphony.org/masterpiece-series.php. This ensemble deserves the support of the community.