The News-Times


It is unfortunate that the Danbury News Times has decided not to print any Concert reviews beginning with the 2013 – 2014 concert season. Past reviews will remain on this site if you are interested in reading them.

Concert Reviews
For The 2012 – 2013 Season

Past Reviews

Danbury Symphony Orchestra, Friday, Oct. 26th

Danbury Concert Chorus, Sunday, Nov. 13th
not reviewed

Danbury Community Orchestra, Dec. 4th

Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet, 2012

Handel's Messiah, Friday, Jan. 11th

Young People's Concert, Sunday, Jan. 29th
not reviewed

DCO & DPSO, Sunday, Mar. 4th
not reviewed

Danbury Symphony Orchestra, Sunday, Mar. 10th

Danbury Community Orchestra, Sunday, May 1st
not reviewed

'The Bells', Saturday, May 11th

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A Russian evening for the DMC

By Gilbert H. Mott
Monday, May 13, 2013

The Danbury Music Centre combined its forces for an exciting program of Russian music on Saturday night at Ives Hall. Ariel Rudiakov, music director of the Danbury Symphony Orchestra, led the DSO and the Danbury Concert Chorus in Rachmaninov's "The Bells" and Borodin's "Polovtsian Dances." The chorus got the spotlight to itself in a movement from Rachmaninov's "All Night Vigil," conducted by its music director, Christine R. Howlett.

Rachmaninov originally set a Russian translation of Edgar Allan Poe's poem, "The Bells" to music. This performance used a text that had been translated back into English. It comes pretty close to Poe's original, though without that wonderful word "tintinnabulation" that makes the poem so memorable.

The first verse talks of sleigh bells, and the orchestra's sharp ensemble playing evoked the silvery tinkling of the poem. Christian Reinert's ringing tenor caught the laughter and gaiety, while the chorus expressed the mystery and foreshadowing that Poe and Rachmaninov add in as well.

A dark, rich cello tone marked the beginning of the second verse and sinuous chromaticism made for an erotically charged celebration of wedding bells.

The mellow deep woodwinds added to the atmosphere. Soprano Kelly Griffin floated over the orchestra, phrasing expressively. The orchestra and chorus built up to the passion of which the poem sings, which was released in sensitive, softer singing.

The orchestra's deft handling of the cross rhythms in the third verse led to the chorus's sharp, explosive singing of the terrors of the fire bells. The flames leaping ever higher were there too, in the orchestra's scurrying playing. The brutal ending effectively caught the listener up short.

Beautiful English horn playing opened the last verse and bass-baritone Peter Walker sang with a rich, steely tone. The vocal standout of the evening, he brought drama and attention to language to the doleful tread of the mournful bells. The gentle close seemed to hint at resignation and release.

Howlett had the chorus sing the "All Night Vigil" movement in Russian and the unmistakable character that the language gave to the musical sound was worth the trouble it must have taken them to learn it. The sustained, rich sound, good intonation, and closing, deep-voiced chords made this an a cappella treat.

The "Dance of the Polovtsian Maidens" from Borodin's opera, "Prince Igor," was fast and sure, with the excitement and frenzy of the dance colorfully conjured up. The "Polovtsian Dance with Chorus" gave one of its melodies to the pop hit "Stranger in Paradise" and the treble voices sang it delicately. Good woodwind playing solidified the ensemble and Borodin's exotic sounding scales, punctuated by percussion, brought color and character. The full chorus was strong and spirited and all led to a rousing finish.

For more on Danbury Music Centre, visit www.danbury.org/MusicCtr

Gilbert H. Mott is a freelance writer in Ridgefield and can be reached at gilmott@snet.net.

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Danbury Symphony plays music of friends

By Gilbert H. Mott
Contributing Writer
Monday, March 11, 2013

The Danbury Symphony Orchestra called Sunday's program at Ives Concert Hall "Best Friends," alluding to the close friendships between two composers, Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms.

As music director and conductor Ariel Rudiakov explained at the start, Schumann's wife Clara was in the mix too. A gifted composer and pianist herself, she championed both men's music and remained close to Brahms long after her husband's early death.

In keeping with the theme, Rudiakov's friend, Benjamin Capps, appeared as cello soloist in a concert dedicated to music by these two giants of German Romanticism.

As Rudiakov explained, Schumann wrote one opera, "Genoveva," which wasn't a hit and is rarely performed today. He feels it should be heard more often, and helped to make the case by leading off the concert with the opera's overture.

The story of the opera is one of those mythological ones about love endangered and eventually saved, and the overture tells the tale in miniature.

Rudiakov led the dark, recitative-like opening with sensitivity and tension. The first main theme hinted at the darkness of the conflict at the heart of the opera. When the horns pealed out the stirring second theme, the message of hope and resolution came across.

It did whet the appetite for more of the opera; as Rudiakov remarked, with music by Schumann it's got to be worth a listen.

Schumann's "Cello Concerto" was next. Capps displayed fine intonation, a rich tone and nimble passagework. The opening theme was expressive and the soft high passages delicate. The songful slow theme was nicely balanced, with sensitive accompaniment, especially from the pizzicato strings.

The finale featured more good interplay between cellist and orchestra. A virtuosic cadenza, punctuated by the orchestra, led to a bravura close that brought the audience to its feet for this exciting young artist and his worthy collaborators.

Brahms' "Symphony No. 4" added the other friend to the program. Rudiakov led a brisk opening movement that brought out all the voices of the orchestral writing. The sighing main theme was expressive and the cellos introduced their theme with conviction.

The horns set the tone for the second movement, kick-starting the rhythmic pulse. The orchestra leaned into the theme and passed around the motives, as Rudiakov built the movement well to its climax.

The always exciting scherzo was full throated, with nicely contrasting themes that always led logically back to the main one. The finale was impassioned, surging and churning, with good solo work in the flute, clarinet, and oboe. Plenty of energy built to a big finish to this concert of best friends.

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Danbury Concert Chorus brings comfort with 'Messiah'

By Jan Stribula
Contributing Writer
Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Expressing hope that the power of music can truly help people move forward in the healing process, Danbury Music Centre Executive Director Nancy Sudik acknowledged the tragic Newtown school slayings in her opening remarks before a performance Friday of Handel's "Messiah." The annual concert was rescheduled to this past weekend due to the Dec. 14 rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The Rev. Pat Chris, of First Congregational Church, said we should look forward instead of backward, as light triumphs over darkness.

Tenor Mark Boyle opened the oratorio with his commanding voice in the recitative "Comfort ye my people." The event proved to be a tremendous source of comfort to all. The dozens of choruses and arias in "Messiah" are sewn together like a finely crafted patchwork quilt.

Although only in her second year, music director and conductor Christine Howlett led the Danbury Concert Chorus in Handel's masterpiece, harnessing an amazing amount of energy with superb results. All sections of the chorus sang as one, articulating countless sixteenth notes in the challenging passages with pin-point precision.

Without a doubt, the members of the chorus are totally comfortable performing "Messiah." Even though greatly outnumbered, the tenors and basses held their own quite well. Together with altos and sopranos, they sounded like the word of God coming down from heaven.

The Danbury Baroque Chamber Orchestra provided just the right accompaniment. Keyboards were handled flawlessly by Maxim Vladimiroff on harpsichord and Fiona Smith Sutherland on organ. And those trumpets did sound, with a fine solo by Ivan Hunter adding to baritone Dashon Burton's charismatic booming voice.

The soloists were all impressive. Burton was a joy to behold, adding a special presence as he imparted fire into his solos.

Teresa Bucholtz had a regal bearing in her blue gown, backed with a rich mezzo voice. I loved when the chorus echoed her in "Oh thou that tellest good tidings to Zion." Soprano Wendy Baker's solos generated excitement and anticipation as she climbed higher and higher with her strong voice leading up to the chorus singing "Glory to God in the highest." Baker sounded uplifting as she modulated with smooth control.

Hearing all the familiar pieces of "Messiah" in such a fine performance had a strong positive impact on my frame of mind. My only regret was that I wasn't singing along with the chorus.

Jan Stribula is a freelance writer in Connecticut; janff@aol.com

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Music Centre's 'Nutcracker' dazzles anew

By Chesley Plemmons
Saturday, December 8, 2012

Nutcracker Party Scene

Though tradition and enchantment and not always synonymous, they blissful converge each Christmas season in the Danbury Music Centre's near spectacular production of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet.

At the tumultuous finale of Friday evening's opening performance, it was hard to say who was the most excited, the more than 200 brightly costumed dancers on stage for their curtain call or the sold-out audience on its feet with a well-deserved standing ovation. The Danbury Nutcracker is that kind of shared pleasure.

Every community that stages this holiday treat rightly thinks theirs is the best, but I'll wager a bushel of sugar plums few come close to the elaborate sweep and rich detail of the Danbury production.

DSO playing Nutcracker

This massive musical extravaganza was once again in the capable and imaginative hands of husband and wife co-directors and co-choreographers Arthur Fredric and Lisa Denton -- he for the 16th time, she for the 12th.

Executive Producer Nancy F. Sudik earns her stripes as well for costumes, sets and production values are all top drawer. For which, among many, Arnold Daley (technical director) and Peter Petrino (lighting designer) rate kudos.

Tchaikovsky's 1892 ballet was based on the Victorian children's book "Nutcracker and the King of Mice" by E.T.A. Hoffman, which bears some similarity to "Alice in Wonderland." In both a young girl is transported -- in a dream, or down a rabbit hole -- to a wondrous, sometimes wacky world.

Clara and the Prince

In the warmly staged first act, Nutcracker paints a loving portrait of family life in Nuremberg, Germany, near the turn of the century. Set in the stately home of Dr. Stahlbaum, his wife, and children, Clara (Riley Robinson) and Fritz (Logan Flynn), the scene is a Christmas party for friends and their holiday happy offspring.

Everything is drink, dance and toys until the arrival of Clara's mysterious Great Uncle Drosselmeyer (Harald Lund). The orchestra greets his arrival with sinister overtones. With Drosselmeyer is his handsome young nephew (Jeremy Doran). Drosselmeyer brings Clara a gift, a brightly painted nutcracker in the figure of a soldier.

When the party is over and the guests on their way home, Clara returns to sleep near the Christmas tree with the Nutcracker in her arms like a doll.

That's when things fall under a magic spell!

Drosselmeyer and the Doll

As Clara dreams, the Christmas tree soars upwards and the living room is invaded by a pack of fat mice. A life-sized Nutcracker appears with a troop of soldiers to drive off the furry critters. In a battle with the Mouse King (Robert Dorsch) the Nutcracker is victorious and to the sounds of a celestial choir (the Snowflake Singers) he is transformed into a handsome prince (who looks surprisingly like Drosselmeyer's nephew!). Together, he and Clara set off for the Land of the Sweets in a regal sled pulled by tiny reindeer.

The second act is almost all dance. With Clara and the Prince seated on a throne-like perch, the reigning Sugar Plum Fairy (Liana Attanasio) regales her guests with a series of dance divertissements, each followed by a duet she dances with the Cavalier (Nick Bullard), a member of her court. Attanasio and Bullard are the principal dancer of the evening and they provide classical moves that embrace fantasy, power, lightness and sparkle.

With a cast of 230 it would be nigh impossible to name all who shone -- for all did -- but special note should be made of Aileen Toal, a pert Dew Drop Fairy, Kira Flynn as the Lead Tea; Paige Campagna, Victoria Madden, Grace Nevin as Marzipan, Stephanie Ferrarie as a slinky Arabian Queen, and Emma Bergman and Matthew Spero as the Spanish King and Queen.

Of course, all this would be for naught if not for the music. Once again, Ariel Rudiakov, music director and conductor, led the 60-member Danbury Symphony Orchestra through this amazing musical score with brio.

Final performance Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15, $20 and $25, cash or check only. For reservations or ticket availability, call the Music Centre at (203) 748-1716 or visit www.danbury.org/MusicCtr.

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Danbury Community Orchestra springs into 'Winter Concert'

By Jan Stribula
Monday, December 3, 2012

After our recent run-ins with bad weather, Danbury Music Centre's music director and conductor, Stephen Michael Smith, seemed to be having second thoughts about his selections for the Danbury Community Orchestra's "Winter Concert." But much of the music was pleasant, and some body heat generated from the audience kept Ives Hall relatively warm on Sunday.

They started with a horn fanfare and shimmering strings that helped DCO spring into action in Carl Maria von Weber's overture to "Oberon." The second theme was well handled with clarinet leading the strings, ending with a brass crescendo surging into the finale.

There was no danger of frostbite in the pastoral first movement of Antonin Dvorak's Symphony No. 5 in F Major, Op. 76. Woodwinds repeated birdlike passages and all sections were engaged in the rich themes in the country dance.

Chills began right from the shivering opening notes in "Winter, Op. 67" from "The Seasons" by Alexander Glazunov. The four sections lived up to their titles, "Frost," "Ice," "Hail," and "Snow." The frosty waltz passage would be suitable for an ice skating rink.

"Sleigh Ride (Schlittenfahrt)" by Frederick Delius was a mix of gentle, almost melancholy themes snapping back into brightness, and swelling up for a soft landing at the end. Connecticut composer Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride" has become a seasonal standard around the holidays. Smith and the 60 members of DCO were polished in their elegant treatment of the festive piece.

The temperature got hot in their encore, with drums and brass rocking into "Smooth" by Carlos Santana. I'm sure there's a connection with violinist mentor Nicola Green's upcoming move to California. Smith credits her with much of the improvement in DCO over the last seven years, and she will be missed.

DCO has certainly pushed the envelope, playing a much more difficult repertoire, adding more concerts to its schedule, and sounding much improved in general. Credit goes to all involved with such an unusually talented community orchestra.

Jan Stribula is a freelance writer in Ridgefield; Janff@aol.com.

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DSO opens season with Stephen Roberts

By Jan Stribula
Friday, October 27, 2012

Combining the Danbury Symphony Orchestra with a powerful organ soloist, enhanced by the phenomenal acoustics at St. Peter Church, proved to be a winning combination on Friday night.

Most of us are familiar with hearing an organ in a church as a solo instrument, but the orchestral accompaniment created something special. The Danbury Music Centre presented virtuoso organist Stephen Roberts for this stirring season opener, with Ariel Rudiakov conducting the DSO.

The concert began with Concerto in G minor for organ and orchestra, HWV 289, Op. 4, No. 1, by George Frederic Handel (1685-1759). In the larghetto e staccato, the organ rose above the orchestra, filling the tabernacle of St. Peter's with its pure sound.

In the melodic dialogue with DSO, Roberts' solos were brilliant, although some interactions between organ and orchestra were a bit uneven.

Rudiakov led DSO in the dramatic "Danse Bacchanale" from the opera "Samson and Dalila," by Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921). The exotic oboe immediately caught my attention, with all sections joining in, swirling away in frenzy.

The brass and throbbing tympani belted out bursts of energy, building up in a series of percussive crescendos with controlled pandemonium. Horns heralded the beginning of the end, as Samson brought down the temple in a final rage. I closed my eyes to imagine the scene not typically found inside a church.

Following intermission, Roberts rejoined DSO for an exciting performance of Saint-Saens' Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78, the Organ Symphony. The adagio opened like a warm embrace, shifting into a spirited allegro moderato, with the strings sounding rich. A muted organ made a solemn entrance, as the orchestra reveled in the development of the ultra-romantic themes.

The mood swung upward in the second movement as the orchestra sounded rather lush on its own, and you could almost forget about the organ. Without warning, Roberts and the big pipe organ came back to life with a wallop.

Roberts was in his glory, with the organ sounding like the center of the universe. Augmented woodwinds had extra help from Claudia Mickelson on bass clarinet. The four hands of Marcia Klebanow and Will Duchon made for a piano blitz, playing all 88 keys at once, so it seemed, in their flowing cascade.

The organ, the orchestra, Ari, the acoustics, actually all of them sounded magnificent in the forceful finale.

Danbury Music Centre's Executive Director Nancy Sudik expressed sincere appreciation to Peg Heetman, who has been funding the season-opening performances for many years, as a tribute to her late husband Paul, who was a violinist with DSO.


Jan Stribula is a freelance writer in Ridgefield and can be reached at Janff@aol.com.

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Reviews from the 2002-2003 seasonReviews from the 2003-2004 season
Reviews from the 2004-2005 seasonReviews from the 2005-2006 season
Reviews from the 2006-2007 seasonReviews from the 2007-2008 season
Reviews from the 2008-2009 seasonReviews from the 2009-2010 season
Reviews from the 2010-2011 seasonReviews from the 2011-2012 season

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