for the Goldmark
By B.A. Nilsson
Albany Symphony Orchestra
Savings Bank Music Hall, Nov. 10
Picky posterity hasnít been kind to Karl Goldmark. His Rustic
Wedding Symphony, a concert staple a few decades ago,
has faded from the repertory; his violin concerto, written
the same year Brahms completed his, once enjoyed a place alongside
Brahmsí immensely popular work, but it, too, has nearly vanished.
Violinist Dylana Jenson believes that the Goldmark concerto
deserves rediscovery, and proved it with a dazzling performance
last Friday with the Albany Symphony Orchestra under the baton
of her husband, David Lockington. The program also included
a warhorse and a world premiere, and was a thrilling testament
to the skill of all concerned.
Jenson burst onto the concert scene as a fiendishly talented
kid, winning prizes and wowing critics. Her debut recording,
of the formidable violin concerto by Sibelius, was a knockout.
So I hoped, when I learned that this concert had been titled
ďSizzling SibeliusĒ (not an adjective Iíd ever apply to the
dour Finn), that Iíd get to hear her play the work in person.
What she did with the Goldmark concerto more than made up
for any disappointment I might have felt.
Itís a long three-movement work, full of the orchestral bombast
youíd expect from 1877. But itís a well-crafted piece that
boasts a challenging solo part and a broad range of orchestral
effect. You can hear its influence in the violin concerto
by Elgar, written 30 years later (parts of the first-movement
finale are lifted almost intact).
What it lacks is the cumulative effect of the Brahms concertoóand,
for that matter, the Sibelius symphony that closed the concert.
The Goldmark is a work of moments: the big, jaunty moment
that opens the piece, the ongoing byplay between soloist and
orchestra, the from-out-of-nowhere fugues in the outer movements,
the gorgeous Andante between.
Still, those moments add up to an enjoyable 40 minutes, especially
with playing of the caliber of Jensonís. She has a steely,
burnished tone that immediately wins your confidence. Unlike
Perlman, whose sound has a supplicating quality, or Chang,
whose vibrato swells mid-note (to name two who have recorded
the Goldmark), Jenson brings a consistent, artless sound to
what she plays. Thus, she makes the hard parts, like the crazed
arpeggios in the third movement, sound transparent, allowing
the music more of an emotional effect.
It canít hurt to have a close collaborator like your husband
on the podium, and she and Lockington worked excellently together,
with phrasing and dynamic balance always skillfully proportioned.
Lockington opened the concert with a world premiere, for which,
as you know, he has a sympathetic ensemble. The Gale of
Life, a short work by British composer Philip Sawyers,
was inspired by a section from Housmanís A Shropshire Lad.
A two-note call introduced a six-note pattern that developed
into an important thematic element, reinforced early on by
maestoso cellos in a Beethovenish mode. But it was
Berlioz whom Sawyers credited as a big influence, and there
certainly was a feel of the Symphonie Fantastique that
peeked through towards the end, in the midst of a Straussian
swirl of orchestral effect.
But Sawyers is certainly more than the sum of such influences.
The piece moves through three distinct sections, each marked
by a well-crafted panoply of colors. Itís as much about texture
as it is about melodic elements, certainly very accessible
to anyone with even 20th-century ears, and, in the middle
section, as the quiet strings invited a flute to join in,
it turned sublime.
Itís been more than a century since Sibeliusí Symphony
No. 2 premiered, winning itself a permanent place in the
orchestral repertory. Itís lush but stridently unsentimental;
its themes seem fragmented; it flows from movement to movement
without much in the way of contrast. At least in the classical
But its cumulative effect is stunning. Those seeming fragments
ultimately combine, like a paregoric-induced dream, into an
imposing whole that stays with you long after the piece concludes.
Vital to that phenomenon is the relentless pulse of the piece,
and I knew we were in good hands when Lockington set off at
a brisk, Barbirolli-ish pace, honoring the tenuto passages
without sacrificing any forward motion.
The shifting nature of this piece is exemplified by the start
of the second movement, where tympani and low strings set
off at what hardly seems to be an Andante pace; only partway
through does the music take on characteristics of a slow movement.
The goofy bass figure that opens the fourth movement is another
of those elements that seems out of place in isolation, then
melds excitingly with the whole.
Lockington brought fresh ideas to the piece, but needed an
orchestra as well-honed as the Albany Symphony to realize
them. With the contributions from Jenson and Sawyers, this
was an all-virtuoso evening.