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Review: Guest violinists bring energy to Mendelssohn show

Tuesday, March 16, 2010  
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By Nat Bauer
SPECIAL TO GO.RRSTAR.COM
Mar 16, 2010 @ 09:00 AM


The Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center continued its tradition and reputation of quality performances Friday at Court Street United Methodist Church with a stellar program that included two outstanding violinists, the Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra and two Rockford youth ensembles.

 
Works by Felix Mendelssohn were the musical bookends for the evening, beginning with his concert overture entitled "The Hebrides,” also known as "Fingal’s Cave.” The performance by the Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Stephen Squires was remarkably expressive. A well-known overture heard frequently in concert halls around the world, this performance captured all the power and emotion envisioned by the composer.


The next offering was the "Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins, Strings and Continuo” by J.S. Bach featuring guest violinists Margaret Batjer and Shelby Latin Harris with the Chamber strings and harpsichordist Jayne Latva. In typical "fast, slow, fast” structure, the performance by Batjer and Harris was outstanding with solid support from the strings.


From the first movement fugue, to the melodic Andante and the final Allegro movement, both violinists were well balanced in technique and volume, receiving a well-earned ovation at its conclusion.


During intermission, the Mendelssohn PAC "Adult Starr of Excellence Award” was granted to Leah Baskin for her excellence in furthering music and the performing arts at Mendelssohn and in the community, as well as her being a positive role model for youth in Rockford.


"Measure 5” is a touring string ensemble, an outreach of the Music Academy of Rockford College, directed by Rachel Handlin. The group’s performance of the "Suite for the Sweets” demonstrated the high standards and performance excellence demanded by Handlin. The Suite was three short pieces by Catherine McMichael capturing the personalities and special interests of her three daughters; Kelley’s Calypso, Serenade for Stacy and Celtic Queen (Roxann).


With the "Measure 5” remaining on stage, the Flute Choir, also from the Music Academy of Rockford College, performed Don Hart’s "Amazing Grace.” Both groups were well received.


The finale of the evening was Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, op. 64, with Batjer and the full Chamber Orchestra. Batjer has a remarkable international resume and is currently concertmaster of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.


This particular concerto is one of the most-performed and best-loved and is considered by many as "the perfect” violin concerto ever composed.


In traditional three-movement format, the work progresses without break, a unique feature incorporated by Mendelssohn.


Unlike many concertos, the violin enters within two measures with a gorgeous melody in E minor. The first movement segues with solo bassoon establishing the Andante movement in the new C major key. At its conclusion, a brief bridge by soloist and strings leads into the delightfully rousing Allegro molto vivace final movement. "Vivace” hardly described the tempo the violinist chose. It was "ultra-vivace.” Orchestra and soloist handled it with precision and perfection, receiving "bravos” and a standing ovation.


Nat Bauer is director of music at Riverside Community Church in Machesney Park and reviews music for the Rockford Register Star.


This story appeared at http://go.rrstar.com/Music/x673421453/Review-Guest-violinists-bring-energy-to-Mendelssohn-show on March 16, 2010.


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