Clarinet soloist teams with BPO for concert filled with serenity and joy

Reviewed by Lee Shepherd

A funny thing happened at the Binghamton Philharmonic concert yesterday afternoon (Jan. 20). The clarinet soloist, Pascual Martinez Forteza, came out from behind the curtain at Binghamton University and almost turned left toward the woodwind section. He quickly turned right and took his rightful place in front of the orchestra, where he proved that the rarely-featured clarinet is indeed a very fine solo instrument.
Performing Carl Maria von Weber’s Clarinet Concert No. 2, he declared his intent within the work’s first two notes – playing the highest and lowest notes possible on the instrument, then raced up and down, showing off both his technical prowess and the composer’s use of what, in 1811, was a range of new techniques for the clarinet. Forteza, associate principal clarinetist with the New York Philharmonic and a longtime friend of BPO Maestro Jose-Luis Novo, is to be lauded for his purity of tone and rapid-fire finger work.
If anyone in the audience had a fear of new music, their anxieties were assuaged by a fine performance of Binghamton composer Paul Goldstaub’s I Am Prospero. The BU professor captures the spirit of Shakespeare’s characters, rather than programmatically retelling the plot of The Tempest. The work abounds with joyful energy, humor and tender love, and is altogether listenable and lovely.
On the second half of the program, the BPO performed Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90 with both passion and restraint. The shortest of Brahms’ symphonies was a huge success in its time, but virtually nothing is known about its evolution, as the composer destroyed all drafts he considered inferior.
Imbued with beautiful and wistful themes, the symphony has a few moments of dark tempest, but the last movement closes with a pianissimo finale that reprises beautiful themes from the first movement. This was a serious departure from music of Brahms’ day – replacing the triumphal or bombastic coda with a peaceful resolution. Although the symphony featured the woodwind and brass instruments, and showcased the basses, celli and violas, the entire BPO gave a world-class performance.
The 2012-13 BPO season has been billed as “exhilarating” music, but this concert in the Anderson Center’s Osterhout Concert Theater filled the listener with serenity and quiet happiness.

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