Rockford music lovers welcome a new season

Rockford music lovers welcome a new season

By Georgia Pampel, Freelance Writer

It was Saturday night, September 14, and the chill in the air foretold the coming of winter, ever a season of fine music in Rockford. The Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra gathered on the stage of the Rockford Theatre, and the audience settled back for a treat.

The first program in the Mendelssohn Club’s schedule for 2002-2003, the

evening was an especially welcome relief to this listener. After a week of reliving the horrors of a year ago, bracketed by our government’s determined threats to initiate what may turn out to be World War III, what a lovely reminder of the peace and normalcy of gathering with friends to hear the refined artistry of time-tested composers in the hands of devoted musicians. The Orchestra was led by the skilled direction and musicianship of Stephen Squires, in his third year with the Chamber Orchestra, and the program featured Rockford Symphony Cellist Michael Beert.

The stage looked a bit fuller than usual, for the program opened with a Sinfonia for Double Orchestra by Bach—no, not Johann Sebastian, but rather his youngest son, Johann Christian (1735-1782). A double orchestra usually requires doubling all the instrumental voices, so that the musical themes can be bounced back and forth between two complete ensembles. J.C. Bach musically bridged the span from his father’s baroque era into the following period we call “classical”, the era of Mozart and Haydn. Maestro (and Professor) Squires was generous enough to tell us a little about the relation of J.C. Bach and Mozart, and about Mozart’s admiration for that transitional music by a composer barely 21 years his senior. Sure enough, as the Sinfonia progressed, there were many moments when it was so reminiscent of scenes in Mozart’s comic opera, “The Marriage of Figaro” that I almost expected to see the costumed opera cast appear, and I could have been fooled into thinking that it was written by a follower of Mozart rather than a predecessor.

Michael Beert, who fills many roles at Rock Valley College, including Chair of the Fine Arts Department and Director of Orchestra Studies, is usually one of the crowd on stage with the Rockford Symphony, so it was again a special treat to be reminded of how many gifted soloists gather to make up that organization. My own musical experience has taught me the richness of blending in as one element in a large group, but surely, to solo in a concerto is the best of both worlds, to be a solo, a star, but also part of the larger blended sound. On this occasion, the work was Camille Saint-Saens’ Concerto No. One for Violoncello, Opus 33, considered one of his most important works. Beert and Squires have been friends and colleagues for some years, and it showed in the constant supportive eye contact between the two as they worked together as a team, and the Concerto flowed by, giving Beert the chance to demonstrate many of the cello’s special qualities and capabilities, but

coming out especially memorably with the long cantabile lines that showed the rich warmth of the cello in its best ranges.

The musical evening closed with Haydn’s Symphony No. 104, the last of his final group of twelve symphonies termed the “London Symphonies” to commemorate two late visits to London. The concert had been notably fine up to here, but suddenly there was a new warmth, arising in the Symphony’s Andante second movement, and following through to the end, a sense that the whole ensemble had taken in a new sense of harmony and was repaying it in their performance.

What a lovely evening, rounded off by sweets and treats back at Emerson Hall, at the traditional post-concert reception where friendly faces and lively conversation always serve as a fitting closure.

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