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The Charleston and the Minuet

New York
Zankel Auditorium, Carnegie Hall
03/01/2008 -  
Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 22 (The Philosopher)
Bohuslav Martinu: La Revue de Cuisine
Haydn/Wranitzky: Divertimento from String Quartet, Opus 76, #1
Igor Stravinsky: Pucinella Suite

Advanced musicians from Carnegie Hall, The Juilliard School and The Weill Music Institute in partnership with NYC Department of Education, Christopher Hogwood (Conductor)

When a preeminent conductor, keyboardist, musicologist and distinguished scholar on 18th Century music stands in front of an orchestra of talented players and proceeds to conduct and dance a 1920’s-style Charleston before his public, the result could be farce……Or at the least, a scene from René Clair’s À nous la liberté. But the great Christopher Hogwood is hardly a figure of fun. And for the young advanced musicians who make up the ACJW ensemble, he was simply conducting the most unusual music for a packed auditorium.

The Charleston, for instance, came in an American première of the complete ballet score, which means in Czech “Temptations of the Saintly Pot”, and better known here as “The Revue of Cuisine”. Written in the 1920’s, with little of the later Martinu trademarks, it was a typical piece of jazzy Parisian whimsy. It could have been ascribed to Milhaud, Poulenc or even Satie. Even Hindemith was trifling with jazz at this time, so when Martinu added a tango or two, the Charleston, a parody on a military march, and some wonderfully bumptious music, that made sense.

So did Hogwood’s conducting. After all, he was the one who helped discover the complete score and arrange it for this chamber orchestra. And they played with all the enthusiasm they could.

A smaller group, a Haydn-sized 13, started with his 22nd Symphony, which features not only two horns but a pair of Cors anglais as well. Frankly, I cannot think of any other work with two English horns, but the major music was made by the pair of French horns. And here was a problem.

Haydn probably used valveless horns then, and probably the sound was softer. These, though, were horns at full strength, overshadowing the tiny string ensemble. Perhaps it was authentic (actually, with Hogwood, it had to be authentic), and for that, was worth the performance.

The third work was even more unusual. A contemporary of Haydn, one Paul Wranitzky, actually enlarged a string quartet, even improvising a bit. Hogwood had found this augmentation, for flute, oboe, two horns, and strings. Alas, the horsts were pretty tired at this time, and errors were several. The rarity of the work was its own limited reward.

But the finale was Hogwood and the ACJW group at its brightest. Stravinsky’s Pulcinella was of course made for Hogwood, with its transcriptions of 18th Century music. The conductor made it almost a concerto for orchestra, with every instrument taking its virtuosic turn.

Fittingly, when Christopher Hogwood returned for the bows, he stood behind the orchestra, and made each group take the bows instead. They all deserved the applause.

Harry Rolnick



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