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Bravo! opens with a bang

Special to the DailyChristopher Seaman led the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra through a sensational beginning to six weeks of classical music at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival Sunday night at the Ford Amphitheater.
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VAIL – When I play a classical CD at home, I conduct my Bose player. It’s just a habit.I found myself doing the same at Sunday’s opening concert of the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival at the Ford Amphitheater. I have to say that I felt a little silly doing so, given that conductor Christopher Seaman was doing the same task with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra just 75 feet from my seat.I’m pretty sure he has a better idea of what he’s doing than me. But nevertheless, it’s a natural reaction for a classical music fan, entering the six weeks of bliss known as Bravo! It’s just the product of the excitement of having classical music back in town.And if Sunday’s performance by the RPO is any indication, we are in for another spectacular year.

The RPO began with Glinka’s “Ruslan and Ludmilla Overture,” superb selection to start any music festival, an upbeat piece which served as a portent for all the inspiring music to come. Such a piece was also strong enough literally to weather a short monsoon which swept through the amphitheater toward the end of the piece.The Bravo! staff capably dried off the stage and the hardy lawn patrons hung in there. And they were rewarded.Pianist Olga Kern seemingly brought out the sun with her performance of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto. Hard as it may seem to believe, Kern possibly out-did herself in this year’s opener in comparison to her performance of last year’s Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto.With the Rachmaninoff Sunday, Kern was simply elegant, displaying the delicacy required in passages in the second and third movements of the piece, while still showing the dexterity and incredible skill required of the Second’s most difficult phases. After a well-deserved standing ovation for Kern and a much-needed intermission for the crowd, Seaman and the RPO took to Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony with gusto. Seaman cheerily took to the microphone to explain the work, an excellent skill. The maestro has the ability to take the novice concert-goer through a piece, while at the same time contributing a nugget or two of information to those very familiar to the work.

Seaman also with good humor spoke to the audience explaining that the crowd should withhold from applause between movements, as the pauses between stanzas are also part of the musical experience. While he gave permission to listeners to strangle those who did so, we’re proud to report that there were no casualties.Meanwhile, the RPO’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth was magnificent. Seaman proved himself adept at making adjustments on the fly and more so brought out the passion of the piece. It was simply a stirring performance.Having performed his traditional walkoff the stage followed by pointing to the audience, asking the audience whether it would like an encore, which was naturally greeted with more thundering applause, the RPO made an excellent selection.Traditionally after emotional Romantic works, the RPO has gone with Tchaikovsky’s “Pas de Deux” from “The Nutcracker.” Instead, it was the polonaise from “Eugene Onegin,” an uplifting to the evening.Seaman and the RPO return to the stage Wednesday with a program of Mendelssohn, Walton and Beethoven’s Third Symphony, the “Eroica.”



I think I’ll leave the conducting to maestro Seaman. Staff writer Chris Freud can be reached at 970-949-0555, ext. 614 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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