Yesterday afternoon at Sunset Center, the Monterey Symphony presented the second concert in its 2010-2011 series. In this concert Music Director Max Bragado-Darman had a little help, for we were treated to a performance by a guest conductor in the first work on the program. Monterey Symphony board member Don Lindsay stepped up to the podium and conducted a clever piece called Batuque by Oscar Lorenzo Fernández. Although he may not have attained the high standards of Maestro Max, Lindsay didn't just wave a little stick, he actually conducted! He had a clearly discernible beat and was zapping out orchestra cues left and right. Reading about Mr. Lindsay in the program we learned that he has had some prior experience in the "guest conducting" field, and we suspect he is quite naturally gifted as a musician.
Anyway, it was a nice beginning for a pleasant afternoon concert that continued with the one-movement symphony No. 3 by Roy Harris. There is a lot of meat in this brief work, and it received a solid and richly textured performance by the symphony players.
Next we heard the Poulenc Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra. It was quite an experience watching stage technicians moving away music stands (parting the waters, so to speak) and bringing out from opposite sides of the stage two giant leviathan Steinway concert grands. To their credit during the moving process only one music stand crashed loudly to the floor, and when order was restored, the stage looked quite crowded.
The afternoon's soloists were Misha & Cipa Dichter, who have been having a busy week on the Monterey Peninsula, for they performed a duo piano recital at Sunset Center last Sunday for the Carmel Music Society and a midweek Carmel Music Society fundraiser recital at the home of Lyn & Renée Bronson in the Carmel Highlands.
We can be sure that the Dichters have performed the Poulenc Concerto many times in their joint careers, and, not surprisingly, their effortless performance brought a lot of charm to this work. Although not a serious piece, this concerto is filled with clever whimsy and unexpected twists and turns - at one moment sounding like comedy music for the film "Monsieur Hulot's Holiday" and at others more sentimental, but always unmistakably French. The Dichters presented a youthful image on stage that was quite in sync with their fresh performance and dazzling playing.
The concert ended with that perennial favorite, excerpts from the "Incidental Music to Peer Gynt." Although this piece is very familiar to us all, it still exerted its magic. All these wonderful favorites were very effective and more than one person was heard exiting the hall humming the theme from "In the Hall of the Mountain King."