Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

November 10, 2020

REVIEW: Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Masterworks In-Depth

Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Hartford, CT
November 6-8, 2020
by Michael J. Moran
The second of three fall programs in the HSO’s “Masterworks In-Depth” series of virtual conversations about the music they would have played at live concerts cancelled by the Covid pandemic was presented last Friday-Sunday. Led, like the first program last month, by HSO Music Director Carolyn Kuan, this 72-minute webinar was every bit as entertaining and informative as its predecessor. 
The program was to include music by Felix Mendelssohn and contemporary American composer Kevin Puts, whom Kuan has called “our modern-day Mendelssohn.” She began by discussing the overture and several excerpts from the incidental music Mendelssohn wrote for Shakespeare’s play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” A fascinating sidebar focused on the composer’s equally talented sister, Fanny Mendelssohn, with several short videos of her music. Two more video excerpts morphed seamlessly from a two-piano version (as the Mendelssohn siblings first performed it) of the overture to the standard orchestral version. 

Kevin Puts
Next, Kuan recalled being asked by her “friend and mentor” Marin Alsop to replace her due to 
illness as conductor of the 2013 world premiere in California of Puts’s flute concerto with English flutist Adam Walker, who would also have played it this month with the HSO. She then chatted virtually with Puts, who described how his childhood interest in improvisation led to a composing career and explained the origins of various themes in the concerto’s three movements, illustrated with audio clips from a recording of it by Alsop and Walker.     

First shown on video as a sixteen-year-old soloist in Carl Nielsen’s flute concerto, Walker then joined the online chat with Kuan and Puts, animatedly discussing the solo flute challenges of Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream “Scherzo” and praising Puts’s concerto as “very well written.” Kuan closed with a 2019 video clip of herself leading the Cleveland Institute of Music orchestra in Mendelssohn’s “Italian” symphony, which was to conclude the HSO concerts.
Like this one, the next Masterworks In-Depth program, December 4-6, will include live chats open to HSO subscribers on Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm and Sunday at 3:00 pm, and the webinar recording will be available to anyone between 8:00 pm Friday and 5:00 pm Sunday.