The opening concert each August of the Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey’s Summer Music Festival is always special. It’s about youth, featuring as a soloist the young musician who has attained first place in the Pearl and Julius Young Music Competition. There is something reassuring in the appearance of a teenager performing a classic. It says that the culture will survive at least one more generation.
This year’s winner, 18-year-old Tristan Siegel, appeared last Sunday at Dolan Hall at the College of St. Elizabeth, playing Mozart’s glorious Violin Concerto #5. Conductor Robert W. Butts pointed out that Mozart himself, the Wunderkind to beat all others, was himself 18 when he was soloist in the first performance of the concerto.
Siegel, a student in the Manhattan School of Music Pre-College program, already has an impressive performance history. His interpretation on Sunday was both passionate and controlled, a remarkable display of virtuosity in one so young. The concerto, called The Turkish, referring to a section in the third movement that was meant to evoke the exoticism of Turkey, stands out in the gorgeously structured and balanced classical work. Siegel did not disappoint.
Another high point of the extremely varied program was the world premiere of Puccini Suite, composed by Monsignor Marco Frisina. Frisina, who lives at the Vatican, made a visit to Madison on Sunday to attend the concert and introduce his music. The suite was derived from a score Frisina composed for a film on the life of Puccini.
Not tightly structured, the suite featuring several themes from the score. They demonstrated a wide variety of musical styles, most of them characterized by a rich romanticism that brought the disparate elements together. Generously melodic, Frisina’s music is beautiful and accessible.
The concert also featured two arias, one by Mozart and one by Puccini, sung by soprano Dominika Zamara. Zamara, a native of Poland, has studied extensively in Italy and performed in many European countries. She sang Batti, batti… from Don Giovanni, and O mio babbino caro, from Gianni Schicchi.
The program also included two overtures: the one written for an early version of Il Barbiere di Siviglia by Giovanni Paisiello, and the much more familiar one composed by Mozart for The Marriage of Figaro.
Festival activities will proceed all week with events at Grace Church, Madison, and ending next Sunday back at Dolan Hall with a concert focused on opera. Visit www.baroqueorchestra.org for more information.