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Major Thirds Kept Us Guessing!

Wan-Ching Chang

By Staff writer, 2012-10-01
The latest concert by the Orange County Symphony underscored how well-deserved is its role as Anaheim’s resident symphony orchestra. Music Director David Rentz had asked that concert evenings should start with a “lecture” about the music we would hear.

Last month Dr. Tony Mazzaferro kicked off the new format with great success, and this time the audience crowded in at 6pm to hear Dr. David Rentz. His talk was at times hilarious! So why was the concert entitled Major Thirds? Because the program would illustrate the vibrant upbeat mood of major thirds chords? No – this is Dr. Rentz’s dry humor …

Conductor David Rentz

The opening piece was the Leonore Overture No. 3. Next would come “Wine, women and song – Opus 333, coming to a conclusion with Brahms Symphony No. 3. Did you notice the theme of 3s in all these major works? Yes – you got it.

When Beethoven first scored the overture to the opera Leonore it ran to 14 minutes. Not only was it too long, but it also told the whole story. So he abbreviated it. Rentz gave his hearers an overview of the story and explained how to identify the various features of the plot.

There’s no need to cover all of David Rentz’ talk, except to mention that it actually included his singing at least one of the themes, and then dancing a waltz to illustrate the Strauss. What a delightful introduction to the evening! This is a popular innovation.

The regular concertmaster Seung Jai Chung has a number of conflicts this year, so we were introduced to Wan-Chin Chang as the concertmaster for the evening. This wispy little woman with a huge smile is equally as brilliant on both piano and violin, and works as a professor at Soka University.

As to the music for the evening, yes, it was uplifting. The Strauss of course was sheer delight, conjuring up visions of aristocratic ladies swirling in their ball gowns amidst marbled columns while the orchestra played from the musician’s gallery. But with music that strong and popular you could also image the servants and tradesmen capering around in the basement, equally enthralled.

We sometimes forget that in the days before the “wireless”, TV, CDs and iPods, people seldom heard grand orchestral music. No wonder concert halls used to be crowded to capacity.

The closing work by Brahms was by Rentz’ admission, not a popular piece for conductors. At one point the rhythm is written in such a way that the orchestra plays off the beat – which makes it look like the conductor can’t keep time.

And Brahms wrote each of the four movements to end softly – even at the very end – instead of with a huge razzmatazz of sound calculated to bring audiences to their feet and make the conductor glow with pride. Obligingly, the audience was very good at NOT clapping between movements (Oh what purists) and counted the movements carefully. And when the final hush descended we really needed David to turn round as if to say, “OK, you can clap now!”

The people went home happy. It was a good night out!

The Symphony takes a a bow.



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