join Ridgefield Symphony in spirited all-Mozart concert
December 8, 2006
Special to the News Times
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.