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AN EVENING OF MANY SURPRISES

On February 16, in the second concert celebrating its centenary year, the Calcutta School of Music presented the Calcutta Chamber Orchestra in concert with the internationally acclaimed flautist from London, Uberto Orlando (picture, left), at the Pala in ITC Sonar.

Orlando endeared himself to Calcutta audiences early last year in a concert dominated by the music of Vivaldi. As a musician of many orchestral accomplishments, in a short period of training and advising, Orlando gave the much-criticized CCO the boost it has needed for a long time. One heard precision of timing as well as intonation, dynamics and phrasing as never before. The orchestra’s intrepid conductor, Sanjib Mondal, rose to a new level of conducting under his encouraging direction.

The concert this year, held again at a glamorous venue and attended by the city’s erudite circles, unfortunately excluded a most important segment of listeners: young students. Owing to their absence, these musicians of the future were deprived of the kind of exposure that is so necessary to their musical development, simply because of the fact that cocktails were to be served after the show, thus making the entry of youngsters into the venue impossible.

The chief guest of the evening was Victor Banerjee: unlike most chief guests, he arrived well in time, spoke entertainingly and without fuss.

The show began well on time with a rather desultory rendition of J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No 2. It is no mean feat to sound jaded when playing Bach, but perhaps the lack of support by wind instruments helped achieve this, although the group consisted of some promising strings especially in the cellos.

Hans Scheepers’s Little Symphony (allegro molto, adagietto, giocoso) can now be considered a standard inclusion in the CCO repertoire. This little gem, ideal in its straightforward and musically appealing simplicity, was well performed. It is an attractive work but easy enough to be played by most junior orchestras.

The Sinfonia in D major by the bohemian composer, Johann Stamitz, whose Mannheim school had a tremendous influence on Mozart, was heard next. This was once again a nice little early classical offering, suitable for the limitations of a string orchestra sans any kind of percussion, although played in time and with reasonable attention to intonation and phrasing.

The much awaited premiere performance of the newly discovered Flute Concerto by Tchaikovsky followed, with the soloist, Orlando, making his appearance on stage. Orlando had been stricken by a severe chest infection which prevented him from working with the orchestra during rehearsals; however, true to the principle of ‘the show must go on’, he performed quite brilliantly, if not in complete sync with the strings at times. Put together from samples and extracts from authentic sketches by the composer, and reconstructed by James Strauss, the performance of this concerto was suggested by Uberto and the musical score sent in advance to the CCO. The flute part is demanding at all times and was worthy of the skills of the soloist in spite of his illness. However, though the themes of each movement were distinctly recognizable and heard before, in their present collective avatar the performance lacked some appeal. The second movement, “Chanson sans paroles”, was moving with its nostalgic melody for all familiar with the music of this composer. It was an interesting inclusion.

Saverio Mercadante, a protégé of Rossini, studied in Naples and composed some 60 operas, but his lifelong passion with orchestration led him to compose many works in that genre, influenced by the style of Donizetti and Rossini. He wrote six flute concertos, of which the concerto in E minor was performed after the short interval. The movements consisted of allegro maestoso, largo and rondo russo: allegro vivace scherzando. It was a scintillating finale which was repeated as an encore.

To repeated calls for more, Uberto returned, to play solo, the haunting Syrinx by Claude Debussy. It was a brilliant and touchingly generous performance.

The CSM has got on to a great start with its centenary celebrations. The progress and development of the CCO, its promising musicians, and the kind interest in its overall growth by famous international musicians is encouraging, but despite the generosity of patrons such as the leading luxury hotels and stylish venues, the music of the school should be brought to the young students by scheduling concerts in well known school auditoriums and churches, as well as on television.