America got a new orchestra last night: first review

April 5, 2012 By Norman Lebrecht

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It’s the Orchestra for the Next Century, formed and conducted by Gary Schneider. We wish it full steam ahead.  The review for Slipped Disc is by Michael Redmond, former senior music critic for The Star Ledger of Newark, N.J., who also writes for Opera News, Symphony Magazine, Chamber Music America, Lincoln Center Playbill, and Carnegie Hall Playbill.


Orchestra for the Next Century ONC, Dorothy Young Center for the Arts at Drew

University in Madison, New Jersey, c.40 miles west of New York City. So “new” was the order of the day. Not only was the program the orchestra’s debut, it

provided the U.S. premiere of the Violin Concerto (1997) by the Swiss born American

composer Daniel Schnyder, featuring the altogether remarkable Francesca Anderegg as

soloist. And the 430 seat Drew University recital hall —

designed by Farewell Mills & Gatsch in collaboration with Jaffe Holden Acoustics, and

opened in 2005 —turned out to be an unusually congenial space for music making,

offering a bright, clear sound in a fine looking setting.


The orchestra’s name succinctly conveys Maestro Schneider’s vision —new music, as

much of it as possible, brought before the public in new ways, including live streaming of

concerts. Already being planned are programs that will feature music by Bartok,

Martinu, Harbinson, Trevor Weston, Elliott Cole and Sara Kirkland Snider.


The ONC’s inaugural performance offered a vivid, dance sensitive account of Copland’s

“Appalachian Spring” Suite (1944), Mr. Schnyder’s concerto, and a rousing reading of

Beethoven’s Symphony No.7, a work that needed more room to breathe than the venue

afforded. But this orchestra of first class young pros

jumped on the work like tigers. Strictly from this listener’s point of view, the Beethoven

rounded out a program that appeared to have dance as its inspiration.


Mr. Schnyder’s violin concerto is a gorgeous thing. This listener detected none of the jazz

influences that one would expect from a composer accomplished in the genre, unless one

counts the concerto’s sometimes improvisatory sounding elements. In three

movements, the work opens with the violin ascending into the

stratosphere and staying there for long periods, pouring out rapturous, ecstatic lines,

while the orchestra shimmers and shakes under it and around it. The soloist is given a

number of cadenza like episodes. The remaining two movements, denominated by their

quarter note values, have a dream like quality that impressed this listener as having the

flavor of a tropical ballroom. Blame it on the marimba, I guess. It was clear that all forces

had worked very hard on Mr. Schnyder’s concerto,( and( their( commitment( made( the(

hearing of this work one of the most memorable experiences this listener has enjoyed

thus far this year.


Maestro Schneider was working at the top of his game, and all one could say regarding

Ms. Anderegg was brava, diva. This was playing that had it all — taste, mastery,

sensuality.  Encore, ONC, and bis, and soon, please. Since the demise of Jonathan Sheffer’s

Eos Orchestra in 2004, New York can certainly make good use of a new music orchestra

as potentially good as this one.

 

photo from left: Daniel Schnyder, Francesca Anderegg and Gary M. Schneider