It’s a refreshing joy to see a standing ovation for a percussionist. But that’s what happened Sunday at the Joslyn. We take “the beat” for granted. Music, plainly, can’t happen without it. Even the apparent absence of a pulse is contrastingly a discussion about pulse, and insofar as we observe the “pulselessness,” we are in fact comparing a piece of music with no pulse to its relative pulsed counterparts…so I guess Gloria Estefan was correct: “The Rhythm,” will eventually, “Get You.”
On Sunday at the Joslyn Art Museum’s Witherspoon Concert Hall, after a rousing presentation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony 39 in Eb Major, the crowd stood up, but not just for anyone, for principal Timpanist, Jack Rago. The Mozart piece was sensational, hum-able, tap-able… truly just packed with ear worms. Rago was heavily featured in the texture and deserved more than a few claps for his triumph.
Another standout in the beautiful afternoon was guest conductor, François López-Ferrer, making his Omaha debut. López-Ferrer danced with the Symphony all afternoon; not the way a ballerina takes the stage. Rather, López-Ferrer, dances with the ensemble the way everybody wants to be danced with by their partner: just enough hands, tons of rhythm from head to toe, and perfectly flirty enough to make you feel classy and mischievous at the same time. It’s no surprise his relatively young career is taking off like a trans Pacific flight. López-Ferrer is charming, expressive, and displays a love of music that goes down like dessert.
Claude Debussy’s Prélude à "L'après-midi d'un faune, delighted. A perfectly iconic example of Debussy’s penchant for playing away the thrall of typical tonality.
Also presented, a mainstay in the symphony scene, though not in the opera scene, was the overture from Hector Berlioz’ opera Béatrice et Bénédict. True to form, the ensemble was sumptuous.,
The last two composers on the program are definitely trickier trivia fodder for the non-symphony-addict-style patron. They performed Manuel De Falla’s Suite No.1 from The Three-Cornered Hat and, Emmanuel Chabrier’s Fête polonaise, from Le roi malgré lui. Chabrier was heavily influenced by the enchanting Spanish folk and dance rhythms and modes which had captivated Parisian artistic circles throughout the 19th century. De Falla was a Spanish composer who moved to Paris on his journey to becoming a world class composer.
The two pieces presented an ecstatic collage of contrasting and similar splattering of Iberian musical sustenance. I was trying to not dance in my seat the entire time. Thankfully the audience all stood up at the end so I could join them in making some noise, and movement, to appreciate the wonderful set.
I grew up in church music and musical theatre. From my collegiate career and beyond I've traveled through opera, the symphony, the theatre and worship as a student, a performer, an entrepreneur, and a journalistic correspondent. I'm thrilled to have an opportunity to share with you some of the incredible and fascinating endeavors I continue to undertake in music and the arts. I don't need you to see the world the way I do, but I'll do everything I can to help you enjoy it as much as I have.