What would it have been like to hear Beethoven’s Fifth for the first time?
The Symphony No. 5 in c minor, which the Baroque Orchestra of N.J. played following the intermission at its Nov. 13 concert at the College of St. Elizabeth, is possibly the most popular and most familiar pieces of classical music in the world. Many of us could hum along with the entire work, and that might be a lot of fun. (It’s probably better, though, if you hum silently, in your head.)
The Fifth was a stark contrast, though, to the work that preceded the intermission. This special occasion marked the world premiere of the Piano Concerto No. 2, by Paul Zeigler (below). Zeigler’s first piano concerto was premiered by the orchestra, under the baton of Maestro Robert W. Butts, in 2013.
The special circumstance that generated Sunday’s festivities was the honoring of the twentieth anniversary of the establishment of BONJ. Begun in Boonton, the orchestra has outlived many other local orchestras. It began with Baroque music, which it still does superbly, but in the past few years, it has presented a full range of music including composers like Poulenc and Hindemith and, even more impressive, several living composers, Maestro Butts among them.
But the Zeigler concerto was a very special event, a piece composed for the occasion. Zeigler has played the whole Beethoven cycle with the orchestra. For this special occasion, though, he created something truly startling.
The concerto is full of drama and energy, strong and melodic. Dare we say we thought of Rachmaninoff? Listening to the piece was truly astonishing. Zeigler is a magician at the keyboard, Butts threw himself passionately into the piece and the orchestra never sounded better.
The concert began with a glittering Sinfonia by Antonio Vivaldi, a shimmering and lacy array of sound which makes Baroque music so easy to love.
Following the concert, supporters gathered for a reception which included recognition of several musicians and a few volunteers who have been connected with BONJ from its inception.