FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Honolulu Symphony guest conductor JoAnn Falletta leads during a rehearsal in the Blaisdell Concert Hall.
American piece adds sense of fun to classical show
It is always pleasant to hear new pieces, especially American works. And it is even more exciting when the piece is a woman's composition, a rare occasion. On Friday, the Honolulu Symphony, under the expert baton of JoAnn Falletta, offered this exceptional opportunity by performing Joan Tower's "Made in America" (2004).
Johannes Brahms' older but always well-liked Violin Concerto in D Major and Richard Strauss' "Suite from the Opera Der Rosenkavalier" rounded out the evening with a more traditional repertoire to complement the novelty of Towers' piece.
When: 4 p.m. today
Where: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Tickets: $12 to $65
Call: 792-2000 or visit honolulusymphony.com
"Made in America" surprised the audience not only because it was the Hawaii premiere, but also because of its purpose and its fun quality. The piece has been commissioned for smaller American orchestras, with support from the American Symphony Orchestra League, Meet the Composer and the Ford Motor Co. Fund, and more than 65 small-budget orchestras around the country will or already have performed it.
It is a strong, rhythmic and energetic piece based on a recurring elaboration on the melody of "America the Beautiful" -- how much more American could it get? But its sturdiness hints at certain classical German traits.
Speaking of German, the rest of the program included music from the conventional, mostly German musical canon. Brahms' Violin Concerto Opus 77 (1878) was performed by Elmar Oliveira, the only American violinist to win the gold medal at the renowned Tchaikovsky International Competition.
Performing with a romantic approach, passionate but mature, he played the cadenzas with steadiness and skill, just as Joseph Joachim, Brahms' violinist friend who wrote the cadenzas, would have liked. The orchestra, which in this piece is a companion rather than just a supporter, kept the balance, emphasizing the ensemble, as well as the soloist's display. Falletta seems to improve her already terrific aptitude with each performance.
Strauss' suite, another German work, featured a surprisingly short second half. If you are unfamiliar with the opera "Der Rosenkavalier," the suite really provides a good idea of the work's delightful tunes. If you know the work, it will bring you joy to hear it condensed in about 25 minutes.
Interestingly, Strauss did not like the idea of creating a short orchestral adaptation of the opera, but in 1924 was convinced by librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal to do it to accompany a film on "Der Rosenkavalier" at a time when films had no sound. It is a wonderful orchestral piece that Falletta conducted with precision, lightness and vigor, while inviting all members of the orchestra to blossom in front of us. It was a short, but delightful ending.
Valeria Wenderoth has a doctorate in musicology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she also teaches.