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Juilliard Orchestra Takes a Trip to The "Pines of Rome"

Conductor Speranza Scappucci

At Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, on the evening of Monday, December 5th, I had the great pleasure to attend a superb concert featuring the Juilliard Orchestra under the estimable direction of Italian conductor Speranza Scappucci.

Appropriately, the emphasis of the program was on Italian music and it opened magnificently with a beautiful rendition of Giuseppe Martucci’s gorgeous Notturno. An impressively precocious soloist, Zhouhui Shen—who wore a lovely sparkling gown—then joined the artists for a highly accomplished account of the powerful Piano Concerto No. 1—an epitome of Romantic music—by Johannes Brahms, who was Martucci’s “idol,” according to the informative program notes of Thomas May. The ambitious, opening Maestoso movement, which defies brief description, is forceful and grave, with some introspective passages, but eventually becomes sunnier in character. The ensuing Adagio is more inward and song-like, while the finale is impassioned, vivacious and dynamic.

The highlight of the event, however, was its second half: a sterling realization of the glorious Pines of Rome by Ottorino Respighi, who had been one of Martucci’s students. The first movement, “The Pines of the Villa Borghese,” is sparkling and busy; “Pines Near a Catacomb,” which follows, creates a hushed atmosphere that continues into the third movement, “The Pines of the Janiculum,” which is enchanted and more lyrical. The closing movement, “The Pines of the Appian Way,” is propulsive and builds to a dazzling conclusion. The musicians received an enthusiastic ovation.

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