An opera overture that left nothing in its wake, a cello concerto discovered two centuries after it was presumed lost, and a symphony that took nearly 15 years to complete, each contributed to the “Force of Destiny” theme of a recent Oklahoma City Philharmonic classics concert.
Giuseppe Verdi, a titan among 19th century Italian opera composers, had an unfailing grasp of how to make an orchestra sound spectacular. His overture to “La Forza del destino” begins with six powerful brass unisons that perfectly set up the drama that follows.
The orchestra sparkled throughout this eight-minute curtain raiser, alternating between some of the opera's more subdued moments and the exciting passages that function as the engine that drives this overture. The tightness of the ensemble was especially impressive.
The concerto was noted both for its first appearance on this series and the soloist who was making his Oklahoma City Philharmonic debut. Zuill Bailey was a committed advocate for Haydn's “Cello Concerto in C Major,” made all the more special by the glorious sound he summoned from his 1693 Gofriller cello.
Haydn's concerto is enormously appealing, even to an audience that has never heard the work before, largely because of the simplicity and beauty of its insinuating melodies. Add a persuasive cellist such as Bailey and the combination is unbeatable.
That simplicity took on an added sense of elegance in the lovely middle movement, which despite a few slips of intonation on Bailey's part, unfolded with remarkable ease. The soloist demonstrated his technical facility in the finale, a performance that nicely captured Haydn's understated sense of humor.