Redlands Symphony Orchestra's audience stood in enthusiastic appreciation of the world premiere of Francisco Castillo's “Rhapsody for Oboe, English Horn, and Orchestra” at the concert last weekend.
The 15-minute piece surely needs to be ensconced in the orchestra's repertoire, although I suspect it may be technically challenging for most oboists, written, as it was, for New York Philharmonic's Principal Oboe Liang Wang, Castillo's former student.
The piece flashes through myriad flavors, unceremoniously shifting from one to the next, as if to say, “Enough of that - try this.” My favorite flavor was the oboe, English horn duet - Wang on oboe, Castillo, principal oboe for Redlands Symphony Orchestra, on English horn.
Poignant, achy, lovingly played, the oboe line tugged at the depths of our souls, and, joined by the English horn with marimba tripping lightly in the background, arrived at immense satisfaction. Conductor Jon Robertson, with minimal direction, let the musicians play so our hearts could simply savor.
Can we hear this work again any time soon? Where is YouTube when you really need it?
Under-appreciated by this audience, Wang's performance of the Strauss Oboe Concerto literally stole my breath for a moment or two. The piece does seem to wander purposelessly, music swirling and morphing with annoying and seemingly constant key changes. The first and third movements simply don't satisfy the human thirst for resolution, but Wang's oboe performance satisfied every craving for “It doesn't get better than this.”
Watching and hearing Wang, his intense focus and complete engagement, yet unarmed artistry, gave us a direct connection to genius.
The concert's four distinctly different works showcased the orchestra's immense capabilities to make any kind of music. Tight and light on Mozart's Overture to “The Marriage of Figaro,” the orchestra maintained a perky and busy tempo without being frantic. Aggressive and vibrant, the strings almost overpowered the winds. Who would have thought?
Shifting seamlessly from the 2012 Castillo piece, the orchestra performed Haydn's Symphony No. 104, “London,” with all the requisite majesty.
The second movement, especially, seemed to give Robertson whatever he wanted it to be - introspective, intimate, and sensitively played. Watching and hearing Robertson conduct such a meticulously composed piece is like walking slowly through a fine art exhibit and taking time to consider each piece.