• Music Review: Nuance gives performances depth
    By Jim Lowe
     | November 20,2012
     
    Caroline Whiddon photo

    Ronald Braunstein rehearses the ME2 Strings for Saturday’s concert.

    BURLINGTON — “Metamorphosen,” subtitled “In Memoriam,” was Richard Strauss’s very personal elegy to the destruction the composer saw in Germany during World War II.

    Ronald Braunstein conducted the ME2/strings, Vermont’s new professional chamber orchestra, in a beautifully intimate and emotionally powerful performance on Saturday at the University of Vermont Recital Hall.

    “Metamorphosen” is incredibly complex, with 23 separate string parts. Layer lays upon layer, blending and contrasting, moving in an emotional roller coaster. The result was at once intimate and powerful.

    Braunstein and his 26 professional string players proved convincing. Although there were imperfect moments, the whole was so emotionally powerful there was a sizable pause after the last note — before the enthusiastic applause began.

    The ME2 organization, directed by Caroline Whiddon, aims at eliminating the stigma of mental illness, and consists of two orchestras, the community-based ME2/orchestra and all-professional ME2/strings. Braunstein, who suffers from bipolar illness, conducts both ensembles.

    In the first two concerts of the ME2/strings, Braunstein proves himself an expert conductor. His interpretations are traditional, not affected or extreme. The nuances that he and his players deliver are what make the performances compelling. This is indeed high-level music-making.

    Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” often gets syrupy, overblown performances. But Saturday’s ‘‘Adagio’’ by Braunstein and these fine players was strictly by the score — though full of nuance — resulting in a beautiful and moving performance.

    The concert closed with a bit of a novelty, composer Gustav Mahler’s arrangement of Beethoven’s “Serioso” String Quartet, Opus 95, for string orchestra. It might have sounded like a whole bunch of strings playing a familiar quartet, but it didn’t. Although the original is always preferable, Saturday’s performance was well played and most enjoyable.

    Braunstein’s ME2/strings seems on its way to becoming a first-rate, important musical institution.



    ME2/strings

    The ME2/strings, conducted by Music Director Ronald Braunstein, will perform music by Dvorak, Respighi and Stravinsky at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 16, at the University of Vermont Recital Hall in Burlington. For tickets, call the Flynn Regional Box Office, 863-5966, or go online to www.flynntix.org. For information, go online to www.me2orchestra.org.

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