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Oct 13, 2002 - Sunshine and Blakeman: An Ecstatic Night with the Reno Chamber Orchestra
By Jack Neal
When you've got it, flaunt it.
With the exceptional Adrian Sunshine as maestro and working his revelatory magic seamlessly with all he conducted; and with the equally exceptional Virginia Blakeman pouring her soul and picture-perfect technique into Karl Stamitz's sublime Viola Concerto in D major, the Reno Chamber Orchestra played in an inspired league Saturday night (10/12/2002) and was itself inspiring - moving, even - to hear.
The concert, played before a near capacity audience at Nightingale Concert Hall, was the second of this tryout season in the orchestra's world-wide search for its next resident conductor. Mr. Sunshine's unassuming manner and mature, assured musicianship make his candidacy hard to beat as he thrilled his way quietly and without histrionics through a varied program in the RCO's exciting race for the podium.
The conductor's arrangement of Richard Strauss's Prelude to "Capriccio" set the tone. It was lovely and complemented the intimacy Strauss intended. What Mr. Sunshine brings to his music making, beyond the skills of precision, a keen ear and shrewd organization any symphony conductor must bring to his or her work, is character. The character he so adroitly draps around the shoulders of the music he is interpreting is a search for what was in the composer's creative ear that inspired the music in the first place.
Whether it was the Strauss or Shostakovich's clever adaptation of "Tea for Two," what Shostakovich called his "Tahiti Trot," or his unaffected approach to the romanticism of Schubert's Symphony No. 5, with this maestro the style, the eloquence, the character is always the composer's. His musical honesty is as enlightening as it's refreshing. Mr. Sunshine has oodles of personality, yet uses his talent to bring luminous readings of great works to listeners without the hoopla of conductorial excess.
The results were impressive. The Strauss was touching. The Shostakovich a danceable sweep off the feet a la Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
The Schubert was translucent. Schubert's joy and astonishing gift for melody was splashed generously with the youthful expressiveness that IS Schubert's fifth symphony. Mr. Sunshine capitalized on the work's wit and grace with his own light, radiant touch for a Schubertian performance of ardor that was captivating.
Nor did the conductor shortchange his collaboration with Miss Blakeman and the Stamitz viola concerto. Good, solid accompanying, led to a comfortable interplay between conductor and soloist that was very special.
It was also Miss Blakeman's moment to shine and she did not disappoint. Although her playing is sensational, Virginia Blakeman is hardly an overnight sensation. That's not a put down. What Miss Blakeman brings to her artistry is a nurtured maturity that adorns her playing with an insight born out of discipline and experience. Nor is she homegrown. But playing as she does, and that's magnificently, she is one of Reno's great musical resources and a familiar face on Reno's music scene.
That's why - playing magnificently and being an integral part of Reno's musical family - Miss Blakeman drew special attention at Sarturday night's concert. Virtuosic and musically refined, Miss Blakeman's standing ovation was heartfelt and deserved.
The even better news is how well the orchestra played. Splendidly most quickly comes to mind. It's a condition RCO fans wouldn't mind getting used to.
Up next for the Reno Chamber Orchestra is the orchestra's annual presentation of Handel's "The Messiah" with the UNR Chamber Chorus. "The Messiah" will be performed Sunday afternoon, December 8, 2002, at 2 p.m. Vahe Khochayan will conduct. All Reno Chamber Orchestra subscription concerts are played at Nightingale Concert Hall on the University of Nevada Reno campus, 900 North Virginia Street, Reno. For information about "The Messiah" and other Reno Chamber Orchestra concerts and events call 775-348-9413.
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