Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 3
 
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
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Music/Theater

William Scheide’s Birthday Celebration: “Music, the Arts Council, and Bill”

Nancy Plum

Most people are probably glad that birthdays only come once a year; one does not always want to be reminded of the years ticking by. However in Princeton, music lovers surely wish that scholar William Scheide had a birthday every week, given the celebrations which have been presented in the past few years. Mr. Scheide turned 96 this month, and Princeton was able to celebrate in grand style with him last Tuesday night with a tribute to turn-of-the-19th-century Vienna. Conductor Mark Laycock led the visiting Wiener KammerOrchester in a program of Mozart and Schubert featuring guest pianist George-Emmanuel Lazaridis. As with previous Scheide birthday celebrations, Tuesday night’s performance in Richardson Auditorium doubled as a fund-raiser for a local organization, in this case the Arts Council of Princeton’s $5 million Campaign for the Future.

The Wiener KammerOrchester is an ensemble of relatively young musicians who play with a bright and refreshing orchestral sound. Mr. Laycock focused on the Viennese flavor of the evening, beginning Mozart’s Overture to The Magic Flute in dramatic style with a strongly contrasting Allegro section. The violins of the KammerOrchester played the Allegro opening theme especially cleanly, followed by equally precise bassoons. Music is always much more than the notes on the page, incorporating the environmental setting in which it was written as well, and the KammerOrchester clearly had the aura and nuances of Mozart’s world in hand.

Mr. Laycock and the Scheides selected Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor as the centerpiece of the first half to introduce to Princeton a young pianist receiving a great deal of attention worldwide. George-Emmanuel Lazaridis specializes in both chamber and solo music and despite some tuning issues between the keyboard and the orchestra, Mr. Lazaridis took control of the solo part with lyricism and elegance. His demeanor at the keyboard was very unassuming and focused, contrary to the dazzling persistent runs which marked the faster movements of the concerto. The orchestra demonstrated numerous times its ability to be uniformly quiet with tapered endings to the phrases.

This being a William Scheide celebratory concert, there was naturally an opportunity for the audience to learn some new scholarly information. Mozart apparently did not notate a closing cadenza to the first movement of this concerto, but various composers after his time did. Mr. Scheide, perhaps as a birthday present to himself, recently acquired the manuscript of a cadenza for this concerto written by the French composer Gabriel Fauré, that premiered in 1902. As played by Mr. Lazaridis, the cadenza was a piece in itself, with the elegance of Mozart blended with the shades of impressionism for which Fauré is so well known. Throughout the concerto, the winds of the KammerOrchester showed exceptional phrasing and refinement. Oboists Helene Kenyeri and Sebastian Frese, flutists Gisela Mashayekhi and Andrea Wild and bassoonist Anselma Veit knew innately how to phrase the music, especially in the second movement Larghetto. Following the concerto, Mr. Lazaridis offered his own birthday improvisatory keyboard gift to Mr. Scheide.

Mr. Laycock paired these two Mozart pieces with a towering work by another Viennese composer, and the KammerOrchester was able to demonstrate its lush side in Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 in C major, known as the Great C Major Symphony. Mr. Laycock and the instrumentalists maintained an elegant flow and lilt to the symphony, and especially clean playing from oboist Ms. Kenyeri added to the Viennese essence. The brass sections of the ensemble played with a nice refinement not often heard from American orchestral ensembles, and lightness and clarity were present throughout the work.

Mr. Laycock’s musical gift to Mr. Scheide was an arrangement of Schubert’s mythical Symphonische Skizzen für einen grossen Mann, which Mr. Laycock allegedly “found” in Schubert’s old high school. The concept of the gift was clearly in good humor, but what the audience hopefully recognized in the absurdity of the piece’s origin is the amount of work and skill of composition Mr. Laycock demonstrated in creating the Skizzen. This piece combined themes from the Great C Major Symphony with intermittent sprinklings of “Happy Birthday” from various instruments. This work was compositionally as complex as any of the works previously performed in the concert, and despite the advent of musical technology in recent years, was no doubt a huge undertaking.

Mr. Laycock chose to milk the KammerOrchester’s Viennese roots for one more piece in an encore of Johann Strauss’ waltz music. Although the concert had gone on for more than two hours by this point, the audience did not seem to mind hearing one more piece; after all, Mr. Scheide’s birthday only comes once a year.

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