The Falmouth Chamber Players Orchestra, under the direction of John Yankee, will present a program of classical music favorites Saturday, November 19, at 7:30 PM and Sunday, November 20, at 3 PM. Both concerts take place at Falmouth Academy, 7 Highfield Drive in Falmouth.
The 30-member volunteer orchestra will perform Handel’s “Music for the Royal Fireworks” and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.
Steinway Artist Robert Wyatt had been scheduled to play Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23, but he will be unable to perform due to injuries sustained in a bicycling accident earlier this week. Young pianist Brittany Alex Rodriguez will substitute for him.
Despite their sorrow over the absence of their featured soloist, the orchestra is ready to perform. Formed in the spring of 2008, the orchestra has “come a long way,” according to Mr. Yankee.
“Although we’re comprised mostly of amateur players from diverse backgrounds, we continue to come together, prepare as best we can, and grow as an ensemble.” Three years ago, he said, “we couldn’t have taken on such a ‘classic’ program as this, but I believe now we can.”
Fritz Sonnichsen, president of the orchestra and a violinist in the group, agreed. “As we complete our fourth year, the orchestra is happy to have gained six new players, all with prior orchestral experience, and they have been a great boost to the quality of the orchestra.”
The music selected for the concert by Mr. Yankee is challenging for an amateur orchestra. “Handel’s ‘Fireworks’ asks for clean, well-tuned, sometimes flourishing ensemble playing, with a clear understanding of baroque style,” said Mr. Yankee, certain that his musicians were up to the task.
Mr. Sonnichsen said that the work is “somewhat of a landmark for us.” In the orchestra’s first year, “we were only confident enough to play one movement from Handel’s ‘Water Music.’ ”
Performing the complete “Fireworks” is thus a major move forward. The FCPO’s version of the piece has been expanded to include a complete wind section. “There were no clarinets in Handel’s time,” Mr. Sonnichsen explained.
The work was originally written for a large wind band including 24 oboes, 12 bassoons and a contrabassoon, nine trumpets, nine French horns, and three pairs of kettledrums. After the first performance, which accompanied the royal fireworks in London in 1749 to celebrate the end of the War of the Austrian Succession in 1748, Handel rescored the piece for full orchestra.
“Fireworks” has five movements, including the dance form “Bourrée”; the pastoral “La Paix”; the celebratory “La Réjouissance”; the overture; and two minuets.
About the Mozart piano concerto, Mr. Yankee said, “The FCPO has supported soloists in a couple smaller-scale concertos in the past—Bach, Vivaldi, Telemann—and I believe are now primed to play one of Mozart’s finest piano concertos.”
Mozart’s Piano Concert No. 23 in A Major is indeed considered one of his finest works. Written in 1786 while Mozart was in Vienna, it has three movements, a sunny and bright opening Allegro; a slow, expressive, and somewhat melancholy Adagio, the only movement Mozart composed in F# minor; and a final Allegro Assai, a cheerful and spirited rondo.
The concerto has been described as a “constant exchange of ideas” between the soloist and the orchestra and various ensembles within the orchestra. It features a piano cadenza, an extended solo passage.
Laura Tutino, vice president and concert mistress of the orchestra, and the wife of Mr. Sonnichsen, said that she had greatly enjoyed working with Dr. Wyatt in rehearsals. “He was very generous with his time,” she said. “He exudes a nice positive attitude toward musicianship in general that makes you want to absolutely do your best.”
She described the concerto as “very light, one of the most beautiful concertos.” Though not “terribly difficult technically for the orchestra,” she said, “it requires a lot of finesse, proper dynamics, and nuances to make it blend well. It has a very delicate quality, and it is a pleasure to play it.”
“Mozart,” she said, “often makes life difficult for violinists. He was more kind in this piece, and everyone is enjoying playing it. It is also an easy classical piece to listen to,” she said, “even, perhaps for people who don’t listen to a lot of classical music.”
Familiar to all, whether or not they are classical music fans is the final piece on the program, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, with its familiar “da, da, da daaaah” opening, first performed in 1808. It was described in 1810 by E.T.A. Hoffmann as “indescribably profound” and “magnificent.” He went on to say, “the soul of the thoughtful listener is assuredly stirred, deeply and intimately,” and “he will be powerless to step out of that wondrous spirit realm where grief and joy embrace him in the form of sound.”
“We’ve been working up to a symphony as demanding, extensive and well-known as Beethoven’s 5th,” said Mr. Yankee. “It’s risky, but everyone’s working hard and I’m confident that we will rise to its many challenges.”
Though the symphony has been challenging for the musicians, Ms. Tutino said, “It feels really good to go into rehearsals and see it come together more and more each week, in the large group, and in sectionals. The camaraderie of the orchestra has grown, too. It is very collaborative.”
“People are familiar with the music, and I think they will find it very exciting,” she said. “It is surely exciting for all the musicians. We’re really growing musically as an ensemble, sounding better and better, thanks in part to some of the fine new musicians who have joined.”
She also credits Mr. Yankee for bringing out the best musicianship in all of the players.
A donation of $12 is suggested for adults, $5 for youth 18 and younger.
The orchestra, a nonprofit organization, is supported in part by grants from the Woods Hole Foundation and the South Shore Playhouse Associates/Cape Cod Melody Tent. For more information, visit www.FalmouthChamberPlayers.org, or call Mr. Sonnichsen at 508-274-2632.
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