Rossini: Overture to Il signor Bruschino
Grieg: Holberg Suite, Op. 40
Mozart: Symphony No 29 in A Major, K. 201
Bartok: Romanian Folk Dances
How about starting the official summer concert season with a short but fun musical trip around Europe in the company of Rossini in the south, Grieg in the north, Mozart in the east and Bartok slightly south-east? Even the much experienced Naumburg Orchestral Concerts couldn’t come up with anything better, and therefore kicked off this year’s run with this easily accessible program performed by the distinguished Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in Central Park’s historic Naumburg Bandshell on one of those simply perfect June evenings. And it certainly is sure evidence of this summer musical tradition’s on-going popularity (and of the relentless, far-reaching marketing of WQXR, which was also broadcasting live) that everybody and their neighbor seemed to have made a special point to be there, for yet one more season of the oldest continuous free outdoor concert series in the United States.
First in line was one of the major Italian melody masters in the person of Gioachino Rossini and its overture to Il signor Bruschino. Brightly attractive and perky, this high-spirited opener immediately put everybody in an even more festive mood.
More subdued but equally charming was the composer from the cold and one of his neo-classical works, Edvard Grieg and the Holberg Suite. A somewhat distant location from the stage and the occasionally restless crowd (not to mention an overly cheerful group of runners nearby) made it more challenging for me to actually hear the impeccably unified, effortlessly refined playing coming from the stage, but I guess an outdoor concert without outside distractions wouldn’t be an outdoor concert.
Luckily, everybody was more or less settled after intermission, just as playful fireflies were inconspicuously becoming more and more visible in the slowly dimming daylight. In this lovely setting, Mozart’s naturally elegant Symphony No 29 sounded both intimate enough for a chamber music orchestra to gracefully handle and epic enough for the eclectic audience to collectively enjoy.
We ended this enchanted evening with Bartok’s endlessly infectious Romanian folk dances. Not missing a single beat during the vibrantly groovy tunes, the orchestra clearly demonstrated that their formidable skills had no limits whatsoever. Those precious little gems were also the perfect opportunity for them to conclude a beautiful evening in the park on a particularly uplifting note.