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Concertos for Cello and Piano

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Iris van Eck plays the cello for Symphony of the Americas

The Symphony of the Americas offered two famous concertos to an audience at the Broward Center this week. The first, a Cello concerto by Elgar, showcased the principal cellist for the Symphony of the Americas, Iris van Eck. Formerly with the Florida Grand Opera, van Eck richly deserved her opportunity to take the spotlight.

The other offering, Concerto No. 2 by Rachmaninoff, was performed by Ciro Fodere. As one might expect from the First Prize winner of the Bartok-Kabalevsky-Prokofieff International Competition, the audience was treated to a technically flawless interpretation of this piece first performed in 1901.

The Elgar composition is really an elegy for the lost world of England before the First World War. The first movement is impersonal and mysterious, yet van Eck imbued it with an appropriate sense of importance - like a meeting of Venice's Council of Ten.

Plucked strings on the cello usher in a new musical thought of rapid and much higher tones than the dolorous ones Elgar employs near the beginning. Gone are the deep, slow, solemn thoughts that caused Elgar to cease composing for several years after the war ended in 1918. As the concerto progresses it is clear there is no more time for meditative reflection. Instead all is frenzied as the cello is barely restrained from taking flight by the other stringed instruments. Van Eck kept things under control here, a sure sign of mastery of this difficult passage.

Ciro Fodere with conductor James Brooks-BruzzeseCiro Fodere with conductor James Brooks-BruzzeseLike the Elgar composition, the piano concerto by Rachmaninoff is so famous it has its own lengthy entry on Wikipedia. The piano concerto is much more familiar to audiences, as two of its passages have found their way into the popular music lexicon. Frank Sinatra's Full Moon and Empty Arms from 1945 uses a theme from the last movement and the 1975 pop song All By Myself by Eric Carmen derives from the second movement.

Fodere has become noted for his performances of Rachmaninoff. He did the third piano concerto with the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic, and recently did the Rachmaninoff Variations on a theme by Paganini with the New World Symphony in Miami.

I found his intricate interaction with the flute and clarinet in the second movement to be particularly adept, showing he possessed more than just a technical mastery of the piano.

The next matinee performance by the Symphony at the Broward Center will be on March 9, with selections by Rimsky-Korsakov, Saint-Saens and Tchaikovsky, among others. The next evening concert will be on Mar. 11, an all-Beethoven program. Visit the website for details:




Photos with this article copyright Cliff Cunningham

Clifford Cunningham

Dr. Clifford Cunningham is a planetary scientist. He earned his PhD in the history of astronomy at the University of Southern Queensland, and has undergraduate degrees in science and ancient history from the University of Waterloo. In 2014 he was named a contributor to Encyclopedia Britannica. He is the author of 14 books on asteroids and the history of science. In 1999 he appeared on the TV show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Asteroid 4276 was named in his honor in 1990 by the International Astronomical Union based on the recommendation of its bureau located at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

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