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Orpheus Debuts Brick and Features Vadim Repin in Prokofiev's Second Violin Concerto

- Classical and Cultural Connections

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
(Orpheus Website)
490 Riverside Drive, NY, NY 10027

Vadim Repin, Violin

World Premiere
Cheswatyr New Music Initiative
Composed by Marc Mellits

At Carnegie Hall
Raechel Alexander: Manager, Public Affairs
Press: Cohn Dutcher Associates

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 4, 2006

(See Orpheus Historical Notes).


Maurice Ravel (1875-1937): Le Tombeau de Couperin (1920): Prťlude, Forlane, Menuet, Rigaudon.

Sergey Prokofiev (1891-1953): Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63 (1935): Allegro moderato, Andante assai, Allegro ben marcato, Vadim Repin, Violin.

Marc Mellits (b. 1966): Brick (World Premiere, commissioned by Cheswatyr New Music Initiative): Gloria, Terracotta Soup, Purple Dandelion, Refrigerator Wisdom, Red Hammer, Cinderblock Pudding, Jacobís Ladder.

Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827): Symphony No. 8 in F major, Op. 93 (1812): Allegro vivace e con brio, Allegretto scherzando, Tempo di Menuetto, Allegro vivace.

Cheswatyr New Music Initiative is a collaboration, which commissions new compositions each year from different musicians, and then Orpheus plays the new work at Carnegie Hall, followed by additional Orpheus performances on tour. In addition, the new work is premiered on radio, first WNYC and then nationally and internationally through NPR. (Program Notes).

(See Orpheus December 3, 2005 Review).

This eclectic program, with the romantic Ravel, the edgy Prokofiev, the abstract Mellits, and the structured Beethoven, was well conceived and well received tonight, as the Orpheus devotees and Carnegie Hall community came together for another fascinating evening in the Orpheus season. There were not one, but two showcased highlights of the evening, Siberian born Vadim Repin, virtuoso violinist, and the world premiere of the Cheswatyr commissioned Brick by Marc Mellits. In addition to Mr. Repinís masterful performance in the Prokofiev, the commissioned work was astonishingly engaging and eclectic in its own right.

But, first, Le Tombeau de Couperin by Ravel, originally created as an homage to FranÁois de Couperin, Baroque French composer, and also chosen as a ballet score. With the smaller chamber orchestra arranged onstage, the Prťlude began with undulating and flowing musicality. The Forlane, with pizzicato (orchestral plucking of the strings) and bow melody, combined flutes and strings with simplicity and poignancy. The Menuet was vigorous and vivacious, as the racing dervish was introduced. The Rigaudon included a persuasively plaintive oboe.

Vadim Repin was a distinguished presence in Prokofievís second Violin Concerto, and his inclusion with the now complete, Orpheus Orchestra onstage was noteworthy in that this is a conductor-less orchestra; one musician for each work sits in a lead chair and signals the initial timing. Thus, Mr. Repin stood facing the audience with little supervision from a conductor as he meshed his violin accompaniments, as well as his scintillating solos. He was at ease throughout and was pressed for an encore at the conclusion, which he gladly played with renewed vigor.

Prokofievís second Violin Concerto begins with the Allegro moderato, with its edgy solo violin, enhanced by pizzicato celli and bass. The initial melody repeats with just celli and bass as the movement concludes. Mr. Repin created a perfect point of volume and vivacity to blend with the orchestra and to generate a searing solo. The Andante assai is imbued with quintessential romanticism, as well as eeriness and exotic effects. Prokofiev is known to borrow from himself in various works, and I heard some evocative strains of the Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet ballet scores throughout this concerto. A driven, dramatic sound emanates effusively from this movement, and Mr. Repin met his challenge.

In the Allegro ben marcato one could envision a marching motif, followed by a textured urgent chase, echoing and energized. With castanets, cymbals, triangle, and trumpets, this concerto should be experienced in multiple settings, as each hearing reveals a new dimension, a new surprise. Orpheus and Mr. Repin deserve kudos for their fiery interpretation of an explosive work. As a note, I informally tested the acoustics of Stern Hall, as the quietest moments of Mr. Repinís encore solo resonated with incandescence.

Baltimore born Mellits composed Brick, in part, as an homage to his mother and grandfather. Brick has seven short movements with very American names, such as Terracotta Soup and Refrigerator Wisdom. At times the work was evocative of Philip Glass, with brief, repetitive, musical waterfalls, and at times I sensed Asian elements, as well. I also imagined the evolution of a modern dance score in the earlier movements, with some hypnotic undertones. Purple Dandelion, named for flowers Mellits had once given his mother, was melodic and upbeat, with pizzicato celli accompanying bow violins.

Refrigerator Wisdom, written for philosophical notes posted onto refrigerators, included introspective interludes and lovely combinations of harp and reeds. Red Hammer infused dynamic celli in repetitions of the violin theme, and the pizzicato passage was reminiscent of Stravinskyís Les Noces. Jacobís Ladder was soaring, swimming, and sonorous, with, once again, quite danceable rhythms. Kudos to Marc Mellits, and kudos to Cheswatyr New Music Initiative.

The Beethoven Symphony No. 8 was sumptuous and triumphant. The orchestra seemed most relaxed in this work, as it was a seasoned piece. The orchestra, itself, was the star, at the end of a challenging program. Deep, rich tones echoed at the conclusion of Allegro vivace e con brio. Allegretto scherzando was work-like and less engaging in composition, but Tempo di Menuetto had sensual, sweeping strings and buoyant bassoons. Allegro vivace, with its racing violin entrance, led to majestic and definitive depth.

One more note; I was struck by the opportunity, with this smaller sized orchestra, minus the podium and conductor, to really attend to individual musicians and ensembles of instruments (plus solo harp). Itís rare to actually see each musician in the orchestra, and the Stern Hall stage is large and bright. Itís also rare to actually hear small ensembles of an orchestra, and this clear, visual framework enhanced that experience. Kudos again to Orpheus for their ingenuity and originality.

Marc Mellits
Photo Courtesy of the Composer

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at