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Greenwich Village Orchestra Presents Khachaturian and Brahms

by Angela Sutton

GVO 3-25-12

Greenwich Village Orchestra concertmaster Robert Hayden was out of his chair and center stage on Sunday afternoon, turning in a yeoman-like performance of Aram Khachaturian's Violin Concerto, under the baton of guest conductor Farkhad Khudyev. It's a big score with a particularly sprawling first movement, but Mr. Hayden and the orchestra kept up with all of its rhythmical intricacies. Unfortunately, Washington Irving Auditorium, although spatially captivating (I would have been much happier about going to assemblies if MY high school auditorium looked like this), was less than acoustically ideal, flattening out the soloist's dynamics and inappropriately highlighting some of the supporting woodwinds. Nonetheless, the essential character of the work, half movie music and half Armenian festival, came across well.

The first half began with another Khachaturian piece, the famous Sabre Dance. Mr. Khudyev appeared to be directing the orchestra in this piece primarily by bouncing on his heels—in fact, I hardly saw him lift the baton. Whatever he was doing, however, yielded results, and the orchestra hit all of their marks in this challenging musical sketch.

The concert's second half was owned by Brahms' Third Symphony. Although the shortest of Brahms' four symphonies, the work, like all of the composer's orchestral scores, requires a high degree of virtuousity. The GVO played it with warmth and clarity—most notably in the warm brass sounds throughout and the third movement's horn solo. Brahms, like many Romantics, tucked away a musical motif (F-A-F, "frei aber froh," or "free but happy") into the symphony. Here, the F-A-F theme, which is initially stated as a boldly dramatic descent, sneaks back in the strings near the end of the last movement, this time as a hushed interior voice that slyly closes the motivic cycle. Mr. Khudyev took care to make this relationship clear, convincingly finishing a very satisfying Sunday afternoon in the Village.

This year's GVO season ends on May 20 with an all-Russian program of Shotakovich and Tchaikovsky.