By Nancy Oliveri
The Binghamton Community Orchestra’s concert Saturday (Feb. 26) at Maine-Endwell Senior High School will feature the New York premiere of Pēteris Vasks’ Cello Concerto No. 2, “Presence,” under the direction of BCO Maestro Evan Meccarello.
Meccarello describes the guest cello soloist, Annie Jacobs-Perkins, as “outstanding,” and he is not alone in his praise. Jacobs-Perkins, who comes from western New York, also has been lauded by Alex Ross of The New Yorker, who said she played with “hypnotic lyricism, causing listeners to forget where they were for a moment.”
A critic from Rochester’s Democrat and Chronicle described her “delightfully pluck[ing] and slapp[ing] her cello like a rockabilly upright bassist,” and the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music referred to Jaocbs-Perkins “eras[ing] all kinds of boundaries with her music, making compelling performances.” Jacobs-Perkins will be traveling a very long way to bring her talent to our community, returning from her current home in Berlin, Germany, for this performance.
Traditionally, a concerto would have three movements of alternating pace, but Meccarello said Vasks’ new piece shows some surprising originality here.
Vasks, a Latvian, is known for deeply spiritual, direct music that pours out of his experiences growing up as the son of a minister under Soviet oppression and resonates with nature and the manmade crisis of our environment. As Meccarello explained recently, Cello Concerto No. 2, “Presence” is an intensely lyrical, personal journey of solo cello and string orchestra, with extended cadenzas that the cellist plays alone. Tw0 passionate slow movements bookend a feisty, mechanistic, middle movement that takes rhythms that might once have been folkloric or dance idioms and swirls them through tight chromatic cells, as if the soloist is trying to escape.
Or, to quote the composer: “Most people today no longer possess beliefs, love and ideals. The spiritual dimension has been lost. My intention is to provide food for the soul, and this is what I preach in my works.”
The concert will feature the BCO’s woodwind and brass ensembles as well as its string orchestra. Music of Janáček, another Eastern European composer, will be played by the strings and by the woodwinds. Other works include a brass fanfare by Evan Williams, rousing Renaissance dances by Tielman Susato and the colorful music of Claude Debussy.
Meccarello, whose debut with the Binghamton Community Orchestra was delayed a season due to COVID-19, is also the conductor of the Thames Valley Youth Symphony in New London, Conn.; music director of the Hochstein Alumni Orchestra in Rochester; conductor of the Irondequoit Community Orchestra, and assistant conductor for the Nazareth College Symphony Orchestra.
NOTE: You can read more about Jacobs-Perkins at https://www.anniejacobs-perkins.com, Vasks at https://en.schott-music.com/shop/autoren/peteris-vasks and Williams at http://www.evanwilliamsmusic.info.
IF YOU GO: The concert is at 7 p.m. Saturday, (Feb. 26) at Maine-Endwell Senior High School, 750 Farm to Market Road, Endwell. Tickets will be sold only at the door for $5 cash. A pre-concert lecture will begin at 6:15 p.m.
As of this writing, M-E district COVID protocols for outside groups require all attendees to wear a mask and to sit one seat apart in the hall. No proof of vaccination is required, and no temperature check will be performed. There are handicapped parking spots available and no stairs to negotiate to enter the main lobby or auditorium.