Review: Naples Philharmonic plays new commission, old classic

Joshua Weilerstein
Naples Daily News

Americans live in an age of heightened anxiety, with our devastation as capable of being delivered by terrorists as by a hurricane. So it's hard to clinically analyze "How Wild the Sea," Thursday's headline work at Artis—Naples when we are so vulnerable to its grief.
Kevin Puts' 16-minute juxtaposition of the ocean's anger and the determination of humanity to survive was evoked by a devastating scene from the 2011 Tohoku tsunami. Its first half is an unnerving roiling of power — waves of timpani-punctuated sound — and anxiety. The Miró quartet, functional soloist for the work, were called on to create raw, quivering passages, and the Naples Philharmonic functioned alternately as their Greek chorus of dread and the terrible force that creates it.
Still, watching the music making of the Miró Quartet, to whom its score was dedicated, is a thrill. The violin bowing of Daniel Ching and William Fedkenheuer, besides being white-hot at the height of the sea's storm, is choreographed for maximum effect. There's visible syncopation in their most visceral moments, doubling their effect; runs are whipped away from the instrument, as though they had been snatched by the sea, too.
Joshua Gindele and John Largess create impossible cello and viola sounds that convey the inner torment of this mass victimization. The entire quartet play "How Wild the Sea" as if they had written it themselves.
However, the Naples Philharmonic actually helped write it, having been one of four orchestras that pooled resources to commission "How Wild the Sea" in 2013. Under guest conductor Joshua Weilerstein, it pulled no punches, either. The brass — who were prime movers for the rest of the evening, with a helping of Tchaikovsky to come — detonated percussion explosions that were the sea's killing force and string section motifs climbing apprehensively.
The principals of each section — notably concertmaster Glenn Basham and violist Jesse Goebel — offer warm solo work. And offstage, the second string ensemble offered a distant echo of phrases, a work so calming we wish it could have been scheduled after "How Wild the Sea."
It's either stunningly clever or crazy to offer a Tchaikovsky ballet suite during "Nutcracker" season, and without white tulle and pointe shoes. The second half, devoted to a 45-minute condensation of "Swan Lake," was the former.
In fact, a few people broke out into applause after the act settings, to which Weilerstein called out permission: "It's all right with me!" he shouted to the audience.
Weilerstein, at around age 28, is one of the youngest conductors around making waves. (He was named assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic at age 23.) He has an animated style and is refreshingly audience-sensitive. While the stage was reset from one work to the next, he emerged to offer us all some insight on the similarities between "How Wild the Sea" and "Swan Lake."
And when one of the string players fell coming out to take bow from the backstage orchestra, Weilerstein went back to check on her, then reassured the audience the woman was fine.
He even approaches the podium like a kid determined to ask the class beauty out on a date.
Our recommendation to the class beauty: Accept. Read the rest of the review here