Boise Baroque artistic director Dan Stern made a triumphant return Saturday to the podium at Cathedral of the Rockies for the company’s season opener after suffering a stroke in early August. Stern looked thinner than usual, and a bit drawn, but for the most part he was his usual self — filled with humor and interesting anecdotes about the piece he is about to perform.
And that’s all I’ll mention about his medical condition because it had little effect on the quality of the music.
Boise Philharmonic Music Director Robert Franz stepped in support his colleagues and conduct the first half of the concert. That gave Stern the ability to focus on the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 24, played by guest artist Victor Steinhardt as the finale.
Stern was the music director for the Boise Philharmonic from 1974 to 1987.
Franz opened the program with the literal fanfare of Canzone in Double Echo by Gabrieli. The piece features a brass quartet at the head of the church, another in the balcony and an a third echo from the church organ, playing a call and response. It resonated beautifully in the chamber, showing off one of the characteristics of Baroque-era music that was composed to be performed in acoustically live churches.
Franz conducted the second piece — the Bach Suite No. 3 — with particular passion, rendering the delicate construction of the work with clean, clear precision and warmth. The most known movement — Aire (on a G String) — was lovely, led by concertmaster Dawn Douthit and the violin section.
Stern took over the second half of the program for the Mozart. It’s a piece he described as one of his “bucket list” compositions to conduct, so he brought in his old friend, Steinhardt to play it. A professor emeritus at University of Oregon, Steinhardt is an accomplished pianist who handled the piece beautifully — with nimble runs and nuianced phrasing. Stern and the orchestra matched him perfectly, not overpowering but richly complimentary, with Lindsay Edwards on oboe and Holly Kassel on clarinet in the woodwind sections.
This chamber orchestra — a mix of philharmonic members and community players — is fun group to tap into. Under Stern’s leadership for the past 10 seasons, the players have grown more cohesive and expressive as a group.
If you love classical music, this is a lovely, intimate way to experience it.
Next weekend you can hear Franz lead the opening concert of the Philharmonic’s season:
Boise Philharmonic’s Opening Night: Works by Bach, Beethoven and Schumann with pianist Anne-Marie McDermott.
8 p.m. Sept. 26, Swayne Auditorium, Northwest Nazarene University’s Brandt Center, 707 Fern St., Nampa. Tickets: $21.20-$42.40.
8 p.m. Sept. 27, Morrison Center, 2201 Cesar Chavez Lane. $22.70-$70.40.