Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 23
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
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The Greater Princeton Youth Orchestra Pays Tribute to Italy to Close Its Season

Nancy Plum

For the closing concert of its 50th anniversary celebratory season, the Greater Princeton Youth Orchestra (GPYO) created a multifaceted musical partnership. In presenting Saturday night’s concert in Richardson Auditorium, GPYO continued its long-standing collaboration with the Princeton-Pettoranello Sister City Foundation, incorporated the Italian consulates of Newark and Philadelphia to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy, and partnered with Princeton Festival to serve as the opening concert of the Festival’s 2011 season. The GPYO concert was all-Italian, with music of either the Italian masters or on Italianate themes.

GPYO Music Director Fernando Raucci opened and closed the concert with operatic depictions of Risorgimento — the 80-year period of Italy’s liberation and political unification. At the time of its composition in 1841, Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Nabucco was viewed as a musical encapsulation of this concept and Italy’s nationalistic struggle to unify the country. The Sinfonia from this work presented by the GPYO included the memorable tunes and effects from the opera, returning periodically to a brass chorale played well by three trombones and a tuba. Mr. Raucci kept the second section of the work crisp and dramatic, aided by graceful solos by oboist Andrea Nowalk and clarinetist Ray Hou.

Mr. Raucci paired the Nabucco Sinfonia with a contemporary nationalistic work of a composer well-rooted in the Italian Pontificate. Monsignor Marco Frisina was commissioned by the GPYO to compose a piece showing the continuity and strength of Italian unification today. GPYO Board President Richard Bilotti supported the commission to honor the 100th anniversary of his grandparents’ emigration to this country from Italy, and Mr. Frisina’s suite — Italy in One’s Heart paid homage to Italian immigration to the United States and “all those Italians who brought a taste of Italy in their hearts.”

The seven movement suite opened with a clean horn solo by Anna Clifford and a smooth cello sectional solo to depict the Italian Alps. Mr. Frisina’s background as a film score composer was evident, as the work showed varied moods and historical drama for each movement. Mr. Raucci and the GPYO kept the characters intact, ranging from the political apprehension of 1861 to the opulence of Rome at its height. In three of the movements, soprano Samantha Pruyn Guevrekian sang texts drawn from Leonardo da Vinci’s Codice Trivulziano, a collection of drawings and writings by the artist dating from the late 15th century. Ms. Guevrekian displayed a lovely soprano voice, taking special care to be particularly sensitive to the highest notes. In the third movement tribute to da Vinci, Ms. Guevrekian was well matched orchestrally by a solo harp, as well as oboist Riva Braumann-Smith and Andrea Nowalk playing the English horn. Although it was difficult at times to distinguish the words above the orchestration, the musical effects were clear in the creative instrumentation.

Like many youth musical organizations, GPYO has several components, some of which performed in the second half of the concert. The Wind Symphony, conducted by Adam Warshafsky, was especially strong, performing excerpts from Alfred Reed’s First Suite with solid lower brass and well-built dynamics. Mr. Warshafsky clearly demonstrated a commitment to find a wide range of colors in an ensemble of wind instruments, and the two excerpts from Reed’s suite ended cleanly and well in tune.

Mr. Raucci ended the concert with in the same nationalistic style as he began it, with Verdi’s Sinfonia from his opera La Forza del Destino. This instrumental work captured the flavor of the opera, aided in particular by the flowing winds. Mr. Hou, Ms. Nowalk, and flutist Nicole Giermasinski were especially key in keeping the mood intact (despite having to turn pages at a terrible place in the music).

This concert brought together a number of elements in the arts and political communities, not an insignificant concept in keeping arts organizations alive today. The Greater Princeton Youth Orchestra seems to have a well-oiled machine in place for training first-class young musicians and giving them the tools for rich musical lives.

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