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SinfoNova performs well despite financial constraints



Conducted by Aram Gharabekian.

Steven Lubin, piano, D'Anna Fortunato,

mezzo-soprano, and Dennis Boyer, narrator.

Program of works by Beethoven & Wagner.

Event in The Tech Performing Arts Series.

Jordan Hall, Friday, October 27.


SINFONOVA began its seventh season with a rarity: a performance of the complete music Beethoven composed for Goethe's tragedy, Egmont. Despite a few measures of harshness in the strings, it was hugely successful. The well-known overture was played boldly. D'Anna Fortunato sang the two lieder nicely: the second one, Freudvoll und leidvoll was movingly sung with a nice touch of gentle dreaminess. Narrator Denis Boyer -- the WBUR announcer -- was rather weak in his reading of Egmont's Melodrama, but the orchestra filled in for the lack of feeling in his voice.

Not all of the four orchestral interludes in the work are of equal stature, but conductor Aram Gharakebian developed meaning where it was to be found: the first interlude was well-nuanced and had a sense of poetry to it. The Victory Symphony brought the piece to a stirring conclusion.

D'Anna Fortunato next sang Wagner's Wesendonk Lieder beautifully and with a mature understanding of the songs' sensuality. Orchestral playing was sometimes on the thick side, but competent nonetheless.

The concert ended with Steven Lubin playing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3. Lubin is best known for his recording of the complete Beethoven piano concertos on fortepiano. His performances with the Academy of Ancient Music, conducted by Christopher Hogwood -- the only complete set to be given a three star rating by the new Penguin CD guide -- are rapturous, finding stronger expressions of joy as well as deeper echoes of poignancy than those by performers on modern instruments. The recordings of the third and fourth concertos are especially moving, made to be played again and again and again. Thank goodness CDs don't wear out.

Lubin plays on modern pianos as well as on early instruments, and last Saturday piloted the Jordan Hall Steinway through Beethoven's third. Lubin found lyricism in the middle movement -- Largo -- the tenderness of his playing here matched by the orchestral accompaniment. Lubin's account of the first movement cadenza was involved and full of imagination; there was a brittleness to some of Lubin's account of the outer two movements, however, and some blurring of his bass notes. Overall, he seemed to have less control than over an early instrument, and at times seemed to be holding back as if scared of the relative massiveness of the Steinway sound.

The orchestra did not, furthermore, consistently maintain a sympathetic relationship with the soloist. The strings, in particular, seemed indelicate; given Lubin's intimate approach to the work, this was not helpful.

SinfoNova, like many Boston artistic organizations, faces financial problems, a situation not aided by cutbacks in funding by the Massachusetts Council on the Arts and Humanities.

One outcome of a lack of cash is the necessary reduction of rehearsal time to a bare minimum. Aram Gharabekian has often in the past shown a rare sense of vision in his musical interpretations and SinfoNova's musicians and invited soloists are clearly of a high caliber.

Given the financial constraints, the concert as a whole came across remarkably well. It is unfortunate, however, that an inability to pay for more rehearsals is currently preventing the orchestra from being developed to its full potential.

The orchestra's audience last Saturday was large and enthusiastic (it included 144 subscribers from MIT), suggesting strong support for an important Boston institution which deserves more public as well as corporate financial support.