Brust premiere given memorable sendoff by Longy Conservatory Orchestra

March 9, 2013 at 3:11 pm

By Aaron Keebaugh

Paul Brust’s “The Remembered Present” was given its world premiere Friday night by the Longy Conservatory Orchestra.

It only took a few minutes of listening to discover that the Longy Conservatory Orchestra is an ensemble that means business. Indeed, the LCO’s resolute approach to both new and well-trodden repertoire at Sanders Theatre Friday night, in several instances, contained the power and punch of a slick professional orchestra. And under the baton of music director Julian Pellicano, the orchestra of young musicians flourished.

The premiere of Paul Brust’s The Remembered Present brought the sharpest performance of the evening. Written for the LCO, Brust’s work is a transparently textured yet colorful exploration of human consciousness in music.  Brust, who serves on the faculty at Longy, cast the 20-minute piece in an austere, yet accessible style to mirror, in music, the process of thought in the human brain.

Borrowing the title from neuroscientist Gerald Edelman, The Remembered Present unfolds from sparsely-scored chords in the strings and melodic motives–solos gracefully played by French horn, bassoon, and oboe–that evolve into winding melodies. By the work’s conclusion, these ideas–the unconscious bits of information–converge into a clear conscious thought, resulting in a dense, almost Rochbergian cluster of sound. Throughout, the LCO played sharply and convincingly, rendering a truly, well, memorable performance of The Remembered Present. 

Pellicano and company opened the concert with Tchaikovsky’s overture-fantasy Romeo and Juliet. Although slight intonation problems and timid attacks marred the opening chorale theme, the LCO quickly warmed to the music, achieving a vibrant sound, crisp articulation, and fine balance. Pellicano struck a commanding presence on the podium, guiding the musicians through the chorale with a meditated pulse. He opened the throttle for the stormy Montagues and Capulets theme, leading with expressive waving gestures. The LCO musicians shined brightest in the famous love theme, with the first appearance of the melody featured the flutes and strings in sweetly rendered phrasing. When the theme returns, the orchestra swelled with colorful and plush sound.

Following intermission, Pellicano and the LCO offered an equally bold performance of Sibelius’s Symphony No. 1 in E minor. The Tchaikovskian grandeur of the first movement’s soaring lines and thick textures featured LCO musicians in powerful and confident sound. Clarinetist Matthew Fontana rendered the opening solo with freedom and warm expression. The pastoral opening of the second movement suffered from some splintered attacks in the brass. But the music’s other exposed passages–duets in the bassoons and clarinets, and dialogue between horns and strings–were phrased elegantly.

Pellicano led both the bold and dainty passages of the Scherzo with focused energy, and the LCO responded in kind with skillful attention to attacks and phrasing. The sweeping lines of the tempestuous finale beamed with equally refined and enthusiastic playing as the conductor and musicians brought the symphony and this enjoyable concert to a definitive conclusion.

The Longy School of Music Faculty Artist Recital will kick off  “Beethoven Triofest” with pianist Esther Ning Yau, cellist Michael Bonner, and violinist Olga Patramanska-Bell, 3 p.m. March 17 in Pickman Hall. The LCO and Longy Opera program will perform The Pirates of Penzance 7 p.m. April 19 and 20 at the same venue.

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