The Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music has not one but two very fine student orchestras, both considered among the most accomplished conservatory orchestral ensembles in the country.
On Friday February 25th, 2023, the Philharmonia Orchestra, under the direction of Mark Gibson presented a program titled The Sound of Water.
The concert featured three major works thematically linked by their depiction in music of the sound of the oceans and rivers of various countries.
Bedřich Smetana celebrated the majesty of his Czech homeland’s Vltava River in The Moldau, a tone poem that depicts the waterway’s birth as a little stream and its growth into a majestic river that courses through countryside and cities on its way to the ocean.
Benjamin Britten’s Four Sea Interludes comes from the 1945 opera Peter Grimes, and dramatically depicts the ocean in calm and fierceness.
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov composed Scheherazade as a musical tale about the woman who saves her own life by telling a murderous Sultan a fantastical tale on each one of one thousand and one nights.
Mark Gibson drew a noble, sweeping performance from his orchestra that tone painted the growth of the Moldau from nascent spring to rivulet, to river.
The Philharmonia next played the Four Sea Interludes of Benjamin Britten like a professional ensemble, responding to the firm leadership of the promising student conductor Pablo Pelajar.
After intermission, Rimsky-Korsakov’s orchestration of his tone poem Scheherazade afforded the members of the Philharmonia countless opportunities to shine as both soloists and as members of a formidably cohesive ensemble, starting with concertmaster Alayne Wegner’s iconic solo at the start of The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship, and still later, in The Young Prince and the Young Princess.
Elsewhere in Rimsky-Korsakov’s work, in The Story of the Kalendar Prince the superb bassoonist Taylor Shorey excelled in his nimble solo. In the concluding Festival at Baghdad…The Sea…The Ship shatters, the full ensemble took on Rimsky-Korsakoff’s motivic layering with gusto and technical assuredness.
The concert closed with the audience on its feet as the superb Philharmonia under the firm leadership of Mark Gibson left no doubt in our minds that we had just witnessed music making that rivaled that of many professional orchestras.
Next April 22 Mark Gibson will pace the Philharmonia in Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. We can’t wait.
Rafael de Acha © 2023
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