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Oct 26, 2003 - Conductor Pople, harpist Kondonassis and Reno Chamber Orchestra shine it on
By Jack Neal
While Theodore Kuchar, the Reno Chamber Orchestra's new conductor and music director, is away - how the cats do play. Saturday night's (10/25/2003) sold-out concert at Nightingale Concert Hall was the kind of continuous over-the-fence, homerun event those damn Yankees from New York used to deliver almost annually.
Now that the Yankees are definitely out, the Reno Chamber Orchestra is definitely in. Being "in" is better.
Continuing on in Maestro Kuchar's bent for his own kind of championship season - gorgeously played, inventive programming across the symphonic spectrum - guest conductor Ross Pople teamed with harpist Yolanda Kondonassis and a newly challenged (not in how they can't play, but in how they are now being stretched to play) Reno Chamber Orchestra for another exceptional evening of music making.
It was an ostentatious wallowing in musical riches of which fans of the RCO would like to become accustomed. Under the Kuchar regime, if Saturday night's encounter with Maestro Pople, Miss Kondonassis and the orchestra is any measure, it appears that becoming accustomed to and having such musical riches on a regular basis is a sure thing.
Kondonassis is one of the world's premier harpists. Her performances of Handel's Harp Concerto in B-flat and Debussy's Danses Sacree et Profane were elegant, exquisite interpretive forays immersed in a sublime musicianship one only rarely experiences in a lifetime of concertgoing. The Handel was transcendent and radiant. The Debussy was shimmering in its wash of pastel colorations. Her encore, Salcedo's "Song in the Night," was enthralling. The Kondonassis technique is flawless. Her talent for creative coloration, an ability to make the harp resonate with sounds that are, for lack of a better descriptive, "ethereal," is uncanny. In the world according to harp, Miss Kondonassis is sensational.
And so was her prime collaborator, Ross Pople, who led the way during Miss Kondonassis's presentations with impeccably rendered teamings. Beyond wonderful work with the Debussy and Handel, Pople placed his own unique stamp on Bartok's striking and powerful Divertimento for String Orchestra. The second movement, especially, was dark, stark, foreboding and intense. The orchestra's response was a mirrored intensity for an entirely riveting presentation.
Pople's vision of Mozart's Symphony No. 39 in E-flat was equally as impressive. Self-assured in every way, this maestro imparted his assurance for what's right by presenting a Mozart reading that was without fuss and in perfect balance throughout. This was not flashy Mozart, but Mozart with allure and simplicity and sophistication.
Pople's great talent is being at home with the music and not needing to impose his personal musical condiments on someone else's already properly seasoned score. With Pople, the music speaks for itself. But how wonderfully it speaks through his well-grounded guidance. He's a very special man and conductor, who brought a veteran's mature insight to Saturday's very special program that will linger in memory long after this maestro's lovingly rendered songs have ended.
It was a beautifully played concert.
The next Reno Chamber Orchestra event, a fundraiser, will be An Intimate Evening With Toni Tennille, Nov. 15, 2003, at 8 p.m. Miss Tennille will be accompanied by pianist Matt Catingub and bassist Hans Halt. There will be a special appearance by "The Captain," Daryl Dragon.
The next Reno Chamber Orchestra concert will be February 7, 2004, and will feature the music of Milhaud and Beethoven. Theodore Kuchar will conduct. All Reno Chamber Orchestra subscription concerts are performed at Nightingale Concert Hall, 900 North Virginia Street, Reno. For information call 775-348-9413.
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