The Friday Morning Music Club is home to a great many local professional and high-end amateur musicians who value the chance to bring free performances of classical music to the community. Its biggest ensemble, the Avanti Orchestra (augmented by a clutch of winners of its high school string competition), was at Montgomery College’s Cultural Arts Center in Silver Spring on Saturday for its annual Masterworks Festival Concert and, if color and power trumped details, they also stirred up an enthusiastic audience response.
The program was all Russian, the Rachmaninoff Piano Concert No. 3 in the first half and Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” to round things off. When Ravel took Mussorgsky’s original piano score for “Pictures” and arranged it for full orchestra, he opened up a whole world of color that Avanti milked for every bit of splash. Conductor Pablo Saelzer got his forces to focus as intently in the quietest passages as they did when they let go broadly in the loudest ones and, although definition got lost in moments like the cello outbursts of “Gnomus” and the intricate rhythmic coordination of the “Battle of Chicks in Their Shells,” the pictures emerged vividly.
Pianist Adonis Gonzalez took on the Rachmaninoff concerto as if he were the only performer on the stage. Granted, this is a huge piano showpiece and notes cascade from the keyboard, but sometimes the piano is meant to be background to the orchestra and sometimes there are conversations between piano and orchestra. Not in this performance, however. Gonzales, equipped with energy, power and a lot of technique, turned in a performance that was more notable for its volume than for any sense of musical balance.
Reinthaler is a freelance writer.