Conductor Vladimir Kulenovic

Brahms Second

Louisville Orchestra
Vladimir Kulenovic, Guest Conductor

Review by Annette Skaggs

Entire contents are copyright © 2016 Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.

I have to hand it to our Louisville Orchestra’s program manager, as they hit the nail on the head with this offering of a bright and brilliant concert featuring Debussy, Mozart and Brahms that helped to bring a bit of sunshine into what had been quite a few dreary, gray days here in Derby City.

Let’s work backward, shall we. Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 in D Major is light, airy and delightful. The piece doesn’t take itself too seriously and guest conductor Vladimir Kulenovic had no problems culling the musical goodness out. As the first movement, Allegro non troppo begins, Maestro Kulenovic stood at his podium, no music before him, arms to his side and listened as the cellos and basses began a quiet and calming theme. He then had the horns, woodwinds and, lastly the upper strings join in. While some of the chord progressions seemed a little odd to my ear, I did hear a melody that I had recognized. Was that the theme to what is commonly referred to as Brahms Lullaby? Why yes it was. The Adagio non troppo’s theme begins in the cellos and builds and morphs throughout the movement and within the orchestra before landing on a coda at the end. I did notice a bit of a Russian influence interwoven in there. The third and fourth movements meld into one another as if they are one. Beginning the Allegretto graziano with pizzicato cellos, the movement rises in tempo as each section builds upon the strings. This movement is gentler, quieter than the other movements, but what it lacks in volume it makes up in serenity. The last movement, Allegro con spirito is definitely the most spirited of all the movements, despite the quiet entrance in the strings. Just as you are lulled and calm, a burst of sound emerges from the whole of the orchestra and the rest of the movement is a series of energy and echoing of themes.

In watching Maestro Kulenovic direct this piece I enjoyed moments, such as at the beginning, where he would stand and allow the music to conduct itself. It is a testament to the talents of our Louisville Orchestra and his brief relationship with his fellow musicians.

The second offering of the evening was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra in E-flat Major, another light and engaging piece of music that features solo violin and viola. Lucky for us we have two of the best in the business. Julia Noone, who joined the Louisville Orchestra recently and serves as the Assistant Concertmaster, performed as solo violinist, while long time Louisville Orchestra member Jack Griffin delighted us as viola soloist.

While this Sinfonia Concertante in three movements is considered Mozart’s first successful attempt into this genre, and it is truly reflected in how the solo instruments add to the richness of the full orchestra. With sweeping crescendos and familiar melodies within the first movement we are entranced, with hauntingly lovely echoes between the soloists’ instruments throughout the piece. However, because of the tone of the viola and its deeper sound, it was sometimes hard to hear Jack’s solos when on top of other instrumentalists. At the end of the third movement Presto, with its light and airy sound, I was sad that the piece had come to an end. Ms. Noone and Mr. Griffin were mesmerizing and always in touch with what the other were doing, making for an excellent partnership.

If you have heard of the term pastoral as it pertains to music, you would have to include the evening’s beginning piece as a leading example: Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of the Faun). Debussy based this work on Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem L’après-midi d’un faune. The poem centers around a mythological faun enjoying an afternoon of fun and frivolity before indulging in a nap. Debussy captures every essence of that, using woodwinds to mimic the faun’s playing of his pan flute and the harp imitating fairies and nymphs that fly and play about the field. Maestro Kulenovic, again without sheet music, conducted with minimal effort but maximum result. Just as the faun drifts off to sleep, you can hear the calmness and serenity of the woods within the hall, and our Louisville Orchestra makes us feel as if we are there. Beautifully done!

Bravi Tutti!!

Brahms Second

January 14, 2017

Louisville Orchestra
Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts
Whitney Hall
501 W. Main St
Louisville, KY 40202


AnnetteAnnette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.