Friday night was my first time visiting the Vergennes Opera House, a grand space built in 1897 and reopened in 1997 after more than two decades of dormancy. The ensemble that heralded the rebirth of the renovated theatre that year was the Vermont Symphony Orchestra.
Fitting, then, that the Opera House is also one of nine venues around the state to host the annual Vermont Symphony Orchestra “Made in Vermont” fall foliage tour.
Maestro Anthony Princiotti led the concert’s opening with Mozart’s Quartet #4 in C, K157 – a childhood creation whose prescience and lyricality was only enhanced by Princiotti’s tastefully delicate arrangement for string orchestra. The piece’s energy made for a perfect show opener.
From there we moved on to the program’s newly commissioned work, Derrik Jordan’s Odzihozo and the Lake. It’s a programmatic piece, musically realizing Odzihozo’s part of the Abenaki creation story.
Odzihozo – “The man who made himself” – is the mythical being who conjures himself from the dusty remains left over from the Great Creator’s work in making the world. There’s enough material initially to create a full man’s body except for the legs. So Odzihozo drags himself through the land, piling up dirt into mountains and leaving behind deep trails and trenches that become river beds.
Odzihozo’s real masterpiece is Lake Champlain, and when he’s done making it he loves this work so much that he becomes an island (Rock Dunder), so that he can live in it forever.
Jordan’s work, I believe, will likely be less enduring.
From the plaintive opening bassoon figure (Rite of Spring, anyone?) to the heavy-handed “native” percussion motif that ran the course of the piece, this is one version of the creation story that could withstand some evolution. I appreciated the interwoven subtelty of the two traditional Abenaki themes, and the oboe solo near beginning was utterly lovely. I also have to offer a special kudos to principal percussionist Jeremy Levine, who stole the show with his entertainingly wonderous one-man versatility. Overall Odzihozo offered a mixed experience, while I didn’t deeply dislike it I was left considering the many missed opportunities it had to be a grander effort.
George Bizet’s whimsical Jeux d’enfants (Children’s Games) brought the first half of the program to a marching, leap-frogging conclusion. Alyssa Weinberg’s respectful reduction recalled the joy and imaginative excitement of the original version, for two pianos.
Next stop for the Vermont Symphony Orchestra is the opening Masterworks concert, on October 24th.
Rumor has it we’ll actually get to hear Soovin Kim perform the Sibelius Concerto that eluded the audience the last time it was on the program – remember that? It was springtime a year and a half ago when a mean ice storm blew through on the night of the concert and knocked out power everywhere downtown, including the Flynn.
Always gracious, Soovin took the stage in the dark and offered instead a gorgeous selection of impromptu solo violin music for the disconsolate audience.
Music in Vermont. It’s always memorable.