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Ballet Music from David (The Seduction of Bathsheba)

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Ballet Suite No.1……………………………………….
Gluck Ballet music from “David”……. Albert Tapper
Prelude to Act 1 from “La Traviata”……Verdi
“Addio del Passato” (La Traviata)
Musetta’s Waltz from “La Boheme”….Puccini
Michaela’s aria from “Carmen” Bizet
Sheri Blum, soprano
“Swan Lake” Ballet Suit………………Tchaikovsky

THE CENTRAL MASSACHUSETTS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Harry Levenson, conductor
Symphony Program Imaginative, Adventuresome By Curtis Hammar

Central Massachusetts Symphony Orchestra programs fluctuate regularly between full scaled concert repertoire and diverting offerings. The orchestra has been comfortable with the latter, less so with the concert programs.

However, last night at Tuckerman Hall, Harry Levenson conducted the Central Massachusetts Symphony in a concert program full of imagination, adventure and thematic integrity. It drew a capacity audience to Tuckerman Hall, which is the orchestra’s permanent home.

The evening’s theme was music of the ballet and opera. High on the interest list was an area premiere consisting of excerpts from “David,” a musical-in-the-works by local composer Albert Tapper. The topic of this musical is intriguing. It draws its libretto from the biblical narratives about King David, whose complex character and relationships provide an apt subject.

Last night’s glimpse at the new musical – it actually has the feeling of an opera – centered on a ballet episode in which David lures the beguiling Bathsheba away from her husband. According to a background narrative by Rabbi Gary Glickstein (a collaborator on the musical), David and Bathsheba unite in love twice. It is a passionate and poignant scene.

It is also practically impossible to judge the music apart from the staging. But, disembodied as it was from its stage inspiration, the score proved to be a melting pot of emotional gestures. It had elements of cinematic scores with bits of a march, grand sweeps of orchestral sonorities and lyricism. This is not the kind of music that blazes new ground yet it has a certain freshness about it. Success, however, lies in its appropriateness for the ballet scene. Though thematic development is heard, there is a tendency to move nervously on to new ideas.

The orchestra moved on to operatic selections after intermission. Guest soloist was Sheri Blum who commanded a lot of attention in her rewarding interpretations. Currently cantor at Temple Emanuel, Ms. Blum studied at the School of Sacred Music at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She polished her operatic technique as a voice student of Judith Raskin in New York.

Ms. Blum is a welcomed addition to the local music scene. Her soprano is one infused with color. She is able to convey the spirit of an operatic moment with east. Last night she did it through arias by Verdi (Addio del Passato from “La Traviata”0, Puccini (Musetta’s Waltz) and Bizet (Michaela’s aria from “Carmen”). “Addio del Passato” had a clean, accurate approach which was totally reliable. When she reached Musetta’s Waltz, some of the evident stiffness wore off and it was easy to imagine the pampered Musetta at the Cafe Momus.

His encore, Gershwin’s “Summertime,” radiated warmth and indicated that Ms. Blum should be heard again. Such a voice need not be a secret.

Levenson largely played the role of traffic cop in the opera selections. The orchestra remained unbending in tempos which made the effort almost mechanical. However, the players took a second breath for the conclulding “Swan Lake” Ballet Suite. There emerged a sound that had finesse. Levenson gently balanced areas of importance with accompaniment. He also extracted a tonal richness that suggested the orchestra’s fondness for Tchaikovsky.

This was one of the more interesting concerts by the Central Massachusetts Symphony. Standing as it does at the beginning of its 1983-84 season, there is reason for anticipating great things this year. One thing is certain, during its few years of existence, the orchestra has shown improvement – and that is a very good sign for the future.

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