suite tooth – part I

with principal cellist nancy ives offering a warm and thoughtful welcome to the crowd, last night got off to a beautiful start the moment the house lights went down.  the opening number on the program was an impressionistic delight written by a 23-year-old sam barber.  lasting only 10 minutes or so, the work seemed to contain everything – musical colors, moods, and emotions embedded in some downright complex, cerebral orchestration that occasionally sounded simple.  if that description contains too many contradictions, good, because the music was loaded with gray areas.  hopefully the audience’s bold response (verging on a standing ovation, i daresay) will bolster the inclusion of even more ambient composers (john adams? philip glass?? jonny greenwood?!) throughout upcoming seasons.  okay, after the crowd calmed down and the stage was rearranged, dutch cellist quirine viersen joined the orchestra for dvorak’s cello concerto.  the most traditionally classical item on the program, not to mention a real crowd pleaser, the concerto features a sweet adagio middle part flanked by a pair of rollicking movements, filled with melodic lines, heroic moments, and slavic sensibility.  but enough about the composer, dear god, what to say about this amazing soloist?  in many ways she proved to be a remarkable contrast to cellist amanda forsyth who played with the orchestra last month.  already a big shot in europe, ms. viersen made her american orchestral debut this weekend with our very own hometown band – yes, bragging rights!  intensely engaged with the music from note one, she reminded me of a slightly possessed, slightly androgynous cate blanchett à la “elizabeth” (oh dear, i really mean that as a compliment, but will completely understand if quirine decides not to use this review on her website).  ahem… let’s see, another way of putting it might be that from atop her podium, viersen (btw, wearing a gorgeous fire engine red gown) personified strength, youth, and passion.  her cello playing shifted beautifully and unexpectedly throughout the work – at times her virtuosity as front and center soloist was undeniable; at other times her sound was in sync with the other musicians or even served as melodic baseline for the orchestra.  i’d like to think what i heard was not a case of weak playing or poor acoustics in the schnitz – quirine viersen intentionally presented a music style marked by creative cooperation and disciplined restraint uniquely her own.  she seemed a quirky genius, absolutely at home in pdx… carlos, can we keep her?

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