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Greenwich Village Orchestra's Tchaikovsky Extravaganza

by Angela Sutton

GVO Rococo 3-10-13

For their third concert of the season, the Greenwich Village Orchestra presented an all-Tchaikovsky program Sunday at Old Stuyvesant Campus. Although an orchestra whose members are drawn from the community at a wide range of skill levels, the GVO is an eminiently capable ensemble that can, in its best moments, rival the pros.

Sunday's guest conductor, Pierre Vallet, owns an impressive résumé from the operatic world, including work with the Met. Appropriately enough, he led off the program with the ebullient and thoroughly enjoyable "Polonaise" from Eugene Onegin, which the orchestra bounced merrily through.

The next work brought the program up a bit short, with cellist David Heiss joining the GVO for the Variations on a Rococo Theme, where—sadly—he let the orchestra down. Heiss displayed serious intonation problems, and never seemed to really find a comfortable groove on stage. The orchestra, reduced for this work to Mozartean proportions, couldn't provide enough cover until the finale, but nevertheless Maestro Vallet kept them gamely chugging along.

After regrouping at intermission, the program closed with the massive "Pathetique" Symphony.  Tchaikovsky's late sypmhonies, for all their popularity, are quite intricate works to perform, and although some of the quiet solos showed signs of frayed nerves, Maestro Vallet and the orchestra turned in an excellent reading.

In particular, the climactic moments in the first and third movements, with their sweeping lines ricocheting between the strings and winds, were perfectly placed and controlled. The 5/4 "waltz" of the second movement has long been a favorite of mine, but on Sunday I heard it perhaps for the first time as it should be presented—an extended dance scene that finds the musical accomapniment periodically interrupted by laughter, conversation, and drama, with Maestro Vallet's background in theatrical works serving the orchestra well. At the tragic close, the orchestra's efforts were rewarded with perhaps the best tribute of all: rapt, attentive silence from the audience.

Maestro Vallet returns to the podium at Old Stuyvesant on April 28, accompanied by several vocalists, for a program of Wagner excerpts.