REVIEWS

Twins join Ridgefield Symphony in spirited all-Mozart concert
News Times, Danbury, CT
December 8, 2006
by Jan Stribula
Special to the News Times

RIDGEFIELD -- Nearing the end of a year of celebrating Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's 250th birthday, the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra paid another tribute to this marvelous composer with some miraculous music on Saturday night at the high school. Globe trotting Jonathan Schiffman returned to lead the RSO as guest conductor.

The program opened with one of Mozart's later compositions, "Overture to Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute), K. 620." From the three majestic opening chords to the exuberant ending, the orchestra captured the joyous spirit of this popular piece. The strings had modified their usual seating arrangement resulting in a clearer hearing of the separate sections.

As the stagehands were rolling a pair of Steinway concert grand pianos into position, I thought this could be one of those rare occasions when two of a kind beats a full house. Mozart first performed his "Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra in E flat, K. 365" with his sister Nannerl. He kept the peace with his sibling by balancing the two piano parts, providing for mutually satisfying performances.

As identical twins, piano soloists John and Richard Contiguglia have a long history together with music, and just about everything else in their lives. Many experiences shared by twins defy explanation. Upon graduating from two different programs at Yale, John and Richard both had the same GPA calculated to four places. Go figure!

When it came to Mozart's concerto, the Contiguglias' four hands seemed to be playing with one mind and heart. The Allegro movement was rich in thematic development, flowing back and forth without repeating, but constantly moving along with a natural progression. Exchanging phrases smoothly in this brilliant dialogue, the twins' cooperative effort was a model of a well-functioning family. The final movement included cadenzas and ritards performed with amazing synchronicity. The twins knew each other's parts as their own.

My apologies go to the RSO, as my attention was completely captured by the pianists. The orchestra gets credit for staying focused on Schiffman during the concerto.

Following intermission, RSO President Sabina Slavin fondly remembered Schiffman for his brief tenure as the first music director of the Ridgefield Symphony Youth Orchestra. She brought his successors Ankush Kumar and Petko Dimitrov onstage, and led everyone in "Happy Birthday." The Youth Orchestra's fifth anniversary was last weekend.

The RSO was in fine form for the rest of the concert, continuing with the lesser known "Overture and Ballet Music from Idomeneo, K. 366." This was Mozart's first mature opera, composed when he was 25. The overture was followed by three gracious dances: a pleasant gavotte, a rich passacaglia, and a ballet in the style of Handel.

A spirited rendering of the festive "Symphony No. 35 in D Major, K. 385 (Haffner)" ended the event. Full of charm and simplicity, this piece has become very popular. Punctuated with silences and quick dynamic shifts, the final movement seemed a bit brisk, but Mozart's notes directed the orchestra to play "as fast as possible." Schiffman and the RSO were very much up to speed for the presto.

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