The Fremont Symphony opened their 2014-2015 season with Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” at the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church. Concertmaster Philip Santos and Matthew Oshida split the seasons, each bringing his own unique sound signature. Santos played with sweet warm tones and a lush vibrato while Oshida was more articulate. Since the seasons are so popular and often played on the radio they are sometimes dismissed as light fare. Yet between the famously sweet melodies, extremely difficult passages are wedged, as are some gnarly dissonances. It is actually a daring and challenging piece– not a light Baroque diversion.
After the strings were featured in the Vivaldi, the winds were featured next, with an arrangement by Pierre Poulteau of Bach’s organ Trio Sonata in E-flat for flute (Leslie Chin), clarinet (Diane Maltester), and bassoon (David Granger). Bach’s music easily lends itself for transcription– it works in many tempi on many instruments and the trio embraced the arrangement with warm expression and an intimate chamber music vibe.
Between musical selections, Music Director Gregory “Suds” Van Sudmeier, gave a mini lecture about the nature of the conductor, exploring whether or not an orchestra actually needs anyone up there waving a stick. It the subject that could fill an entire musicology Phd thesis. Originally a jazz drummer, Sudmeier sounded like he has never been to a classical concert. His tone was more imitative of pledge-a-thon emcee than a maestro. His Music Appreciation 101-style examination of the topic included the story of Lully’s notorious demise and contributions by Verdi and Mahler to the art of conducting even though none of these composers were on the program. Sudemeier decided to make this performance “historically accurate” and not conduct the Baroque pieces, letting the musicians cue themselves with mixed levels of success.
An arrangement of Faure’s Sicilienne featured Leslie Chin on flute in what almost amounted to a concerto movement. Her playing was simply beautiful, and the balance with the orchestra was ideal.
Copland only wrote about one season–Appalachian Spring. His use of open-fifth harmonies helped establish 20th century American orchestral sound. At this concert the chamber orchestra version was performed, dispatched by the small ensemble with clarity and light energy.
Located at the far southeastern corner of the Bay Area’s suburban sprawl network, Fremont often gets culturally dismissed. Yet the town’s diverse community deserves a local orchestral presence, and the fully professional Fremont Symphony has the potential to provide that under the right leadership.