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REVIEW

Bach concerto transcribed for marimba wows symphony audience

Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra plays March series
By Dennis Forney | Apr 11, 2013
Photo by: Dennis Forney Shown following the concert in Ocean View are, l-r, Warren Wolf, Lucienne Vignol Wolfe, Eric Rierson and Julien Benichou.

Warren Wolf, playing with the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra during a March 23 concert in Ocean View, brought the crowd to its feet with his performance of the Bach Concerto for Violin No. 1. What made the performance so exciting and unusual is that the piece had been transcribed for Marimba, Wolf's principle instrument.

Anyone who knows Bach knows that the German composer's music doesn't lack for notes or speed. Watching and listening to Wolf effortlessly hammering out the characteristic Bach runs with all their lyrical beauty and intricacy, backed up by the precise and perfectly coordinated work of the orchestra, was nothing short of spellbinding.

It was impossible not to be intrigued by the inherently Caribbean feel and sound of the Marimba - like a wooden-keyed xylophone - married with the classic German score. Wolf made it work beyond imagination.

When the orchestra eased away in the final movement to give solo space for the cadenza offered by J.S., Wolf followed his passion for jazz.  He took himself and his audience off on a wild ride showing his virtuosity and complete command with the instrument before circling back in exciting jazz fashion to the phrases that gave rise to his improvisation. He and the orchestra returned seamlessly to the score at the end of the cadenza to conclude the piece triumphantly for the nearly breathless and transfixed audience.

Fully warmed, Wolf then joined forces with Musical Director and Conductor Julien Benichou and his orchestra for the world premier of a commissioned piece for Marimba composed by Benichou. The piece, in a looser and more eclectic style that showed off the brightness of the various sections of the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, nicely complemented the tighter Bach piece that preceded it. Benichou dedicated the piece, titled Wolves, to Warren Wolfe and also to long-time symphony supporter and patron Lucienne Vignol Wolfe.

The symphony's March program opened with 17-year-old saxophonist Eric Rierson playing Jacques Ibert's Concertina de Camera. The selection, played with sensitivity by the young musician on an instrument synonymous with jazz, prepared the audience's ears for the mood of the first half of the program.

After intermission, Benichou's orchestra of talented musicians showed their continuing maturity, passion and versatility with a rich performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 4.

The orchestra will conclude its 2012-2013 season in late April in a program titled Joyous to Glorious. The program will feature Vivaldi's Four Seasons with violinists Nicholas Currie and Katarzyna Bryla in the spotlight. The second piece of the evening will be Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 3 known as the Scottish Symphony.

For further information about dates, times and venues, go to midatlanticsymphony.org.

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