Midland Symphony Orchestra
Leon Gregorian, conductor
Deborah Moriarty, pianist
Midland Center for the Arts
March 5, 1988
Review published in|
The Saginaw News
March 7, 1988
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Following the stock market's crash in 1929, the headline in Variety was "Wall St. Lays An Egg." Returning that metaphor to its entertainment origins, conductor Leon Gregorian and the Midland Symphony did just that Saturday night on the stage of the Midland Center for the Arts.
The concert began with a tentative performance of Mozart's Overture to The Abduction from the Seraglio. Gregorian had trouble throughout effecting clear entrances, and so perfunctory was the lovely "Konstanze" section that one would never have realized it was music written to be sung.
The evening's worst debacle came next, a totally incoherent and shapeless performance of Rachmanonoff's Second Piano Concerto, featuring pianist Deborah Moriarty, one of Gregorian's fellow Michigan State faculty members.
Moriarty simply did not know the work, and therefore had no business embarrassing herself and her conductor/colleague by attempting to perform it in public. Forget the finger faults, the memory slips and even that she occasionally got lost. She demonstrated no musical, emotional or even technical concept of the concerto.
The performance seemed interminable. The middle of the second movement totally fell apart, and in the two fast movements, Moriarty repeatedly abandoned meter in her rush to get to familiar cadences.
Gregorian and the orchestra were no help. No amount of urging, cajoling and undulating on the podium could hide the fact that the orcehstra was, like Moriarty, hopelessly under-rehearsed and vainly struggling.
Ironically, Josephine Ashmun, the symphony's late benefactress in whose honor the concert was given Saturday night, singled out Moriarty for praise when she played chamber music in Midland in 1981. How could Gregorian allow such a miserable performance, especially by a colleague whose abilities and limitations he should certainly know?
After intermission the orchestra returned to perform Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, which, though technically somewhat better than what preceded it, had no fire and energy in the magnificent first movement.
The second movement Andante proved once again that string playing is the nemesis of this orchestra and that eliciting phrasing is Gregorian's. The printed program didn't list the Scherzo movement, perhaps in prophetic anticipation of its falling apart at the end. The agony ended with a thumped-out, plain vanilla finale.
Gregorian's advance press touted him as a builder of orchestras and a teacher of the orchestral literature. So far he has shown little to justify those epithets. Notes were played Saturday night -- some of them even the right ones -- but no real music was made. Mrs. Ashmun deserved better.
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