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February 11, 2009 > Fremont Symphony's winter concert shines a spotlight on youth

Fremont Symphony's winter concert shines a spotlight on youth

By Eman Isadiar

There were many new faces in the audience last Saturday evening at the Smith Center of Ohlone College. One person exclaimed, "I didn't know Fremont had a symphony!"

These words are music to the ears of the orchestra's 200-strong season ticket holders and devoted fans, who immediately know they have a new convert.

A Brilliant "Dutchman"

Following some introductory remarks from the stage, music director David Sloss opened the program with the overture to Richard Wagner's opera "The Flying Dutchman", which tells the story of a cursed ghost ship wandering in the North Sea. According to Sloss, Wagner first had the idea for the opera during a stormy crossing from Latvia to England as the composer and his wife escaped their creditors.

The orchestra's highly polished rendition was remarkable from the first notes depicting Wagner's tempestuous seas, followed by a tender, melodious section representing the opera's female character and romantic subplot, right through the soaring, triumphant ending.

While the 20-minute overture was no substitute for the two-and-a-half-hour opera-as Maestro Sloss jokingly suggested in his opening remarks-it nevertheless communicated some of Wagner's thrilling operatic drama.

Laura Bergmann: A Flautist to Remember

Winner of the Fremont Symphony's 2009 Young Artist Competition, Laura Bergmann, was next on the program with the two-movement Flute Concerto by Danish composer Carl Nielsen. Once again, David Sloss shared some musical insights about the piece, priming the audience for the music to come.

Among the many technical challenges of Nielsen's concerto are the frequent changes in tempo and dynamics, all of which Bergmann observed with impressive ease. Not only did she deliver Nielsen's fast passagework with exceptional precision and clarity, but also demonstrated her own maturity as an artist with some bold musical gestures and subtle nuances.

Studying with San Francisco Symphony's Timothy Day at the Conservatory of Music, 21-year old Laura Bergmann already shows all the signs of a seasoned musician. With her flawless skill and deep passion for music, Bergmann is sure to join the ranks of other Fremont Symphony laureates with highly successful musical careers.

Fremont's Young Composers

One of the evening's most memorable highlights was the selection of seven short pieces composed by Fremont school children and arranged for orchestra by composer Mark Volkert, associate concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony and long-time collaborator of David Sloss.

Ranging from such descriptive names as "A Mysterious Quest" to more generic titles like "The Song", these pieces were each a miniature symphony of exceptional musical value. Mark Volkert's flattering orchestration raised these compositions to the level of familiar masterworks by Moussorgsky and Ravel, while faithfully preserving the children's original melodies and triads.

The pieces performed were "A Mysterious Quest" by Marie Simon, "Walking Through the Woods" by Rosemond Ho, "F Minor Melody" by Andrew Chen, "The Song" by Ruvan Jayaweera, "The Lost City" by Patrick Zeng, "Little Spring Song" by Jessica Mao, and "The Majestic Earth" by Eesha Bemra.

Fremont Symphony at its Best

The concert concluded with Symphony No. 4 by Johannes Brahms, a musical giant of the 19th century. This rather lengthy and difficult four-movement symphony is an important landmark in symphonic writing, which requires the highest degrees of both skill and stamina.

With this piece, however, the Fremont Symphony truly outdid itself, reaching new heights in orchestral technique. This once again proved that both David Sloss and the Fremont Symphony shine especially brightly in romantic repertoire of this kind.

Every note was in proportion to the work as a whole. Each of the many layers of Brahm's music came to the foreground and faded into the background at precisely the right moments.

As a matter of concert etiquette, the public generally avoids clapping in between movements, which can disrupt the flow of the piece and break the musicians' concentration. However, the Fremont Symphony gave us such an exhilarating performance of Brahms' Fourth Symphony that the audience simply could not contain its excitement, and burst into applause after each and every movement.

The cheers may have been untimely, but they were a sincere tribute to a very special hometown orchestra.

Yes, Fremont has a symphony, and a darned good one at that!

* Eman Isadiar serves on the Board of the Fremont Symphony Orchestra

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