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Juilliard Orchestra Performs Wagner, Sibelius, & Rediscovers a Forgotten Gem

Mark Wigglesworth of the Juilliard Orchestra, photo by Ben Ealovega
A new season of performances by the fine musicians of the Juilliard Orchestra reached an early peak with a terrific concert at Alice Tully Hall on the evening of Monday, October 28th, under the accomplished direction of the distinguished conductor, Mark Wigglesworth.
The program opened exhilaratingly with a confident account of the nowadays seldom heard, vivacious and colorful Portsmouth Point Overture by the currently unsung and undervalued William Walton, an evocative work inspired by an 1811 etching by the English artist, Thomas Rowlandson. The 1925 score, as indicated by the program annotator, “was the young composer’s first work for full orchestra and his first great success” as well as his first published score, dedicated to the eminent poet Siegfried Sassoon, described as “a friend and early patron” of Walton. It was a splendid opportunity to hear unfamiliar repertory in the concert hall.
Even more exalting was the glorious music that closed the first half of the program, an impressive realization of the Suite from Richard Wagner’s magnificent Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, which ends with the most famous excerpt from the opera, the transcendent Prelude to Act I.
The evening concluded marvelously, with a compelling rendition of the exceptional Second Symphony of Jean Sibelius, deservedly his most popular along with his Fifth. The effect of the first movement was above all suspenseful, followed by the more somber but still dramatic Andante. The sense of urgency continued and intensified in the third movement, while the stirring Finale unfolded triumphantly. It was a powerful end to a memorable evening.

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