Bravos for guest conductor, pianist at TICO concert

By Eileen Wingard

Eileen Wingard

SAN DIEGO — Robert Zelickman, professional clarinetist and retired UC San Diego Wind Ensemble Conductor, served as guest maestro for the  Nov. 12 and 14 concerts of the Tifereth Israel Community Orchestra (TICO). He substituted for TICO’s music director, David Amos, who had suffered an injured ankle in an accidental fall.

The opening work, the Overture to “Martha,” by Friedrich von Flotow, sounded well-rehearsed, with good intonation, rhythmic precision and attention to dynamic details. Most impressive was Zelickman’s handling of “An American in Paris” by George Gershwin. This expansive work, peppered with horn honks and simulated street sounds, jazzy rhythmic patterns and melodic blues, was well-executed. There were many admirable solos by the violin, the viola, the flute, the clarinet, the sax, the bass clarinet, the trumpet, the horns, and, even the tuba. Most of all, the orchestra played with spirit.

After intermission, piano soloist, Daniel Wnukowski took center stage. He performed two works, the Symphonic Variations for Piano and Orchestra by Cesar Franck and the Burlesque for Piano and Orchestra by Richard Strauss. Although the orchestral accompaniments for these two works were a bit ragged compared to the tightly delivered performances in the first half of the program, the soloist managed to carry the day.

Wnukowski is a first class pianist. He has technique and energy to burn, with octave runs moving so rapidly, his hands were a blur to watch. His lyrical passages sang, and his digital dexterity impressed in both works.

The seldom-heard Strauss Burlesque, which he composed at the age of 21, had passages reminiscent of his later Rosenkavalier Waltzes.

The slender, youthful-looking Wnukowski, a native of Canada, now living in Austria, has become deeply committed to the performance of Jewish composers of the Holocaust.

As encores, he played two short works by composers who managed to escape the Nazi horror.  The first was by the Austrian-Jewish emigre to Hollywood, Erich Korngold. It was one of a group of pieces Korngold called, “Little Waltzes,” each of which he named for one of his lady friends. This one was “Gretl.” It proved to be a charming confection.

The second encore was “Oberek,” a dance in ¾ time with the accent on the third beat. Wnukowski zipped through it with rapid flare. This virtuoso gem was by a Polish-Jewish composer, Roman Ritterband, who escaped on the last train to Switzerland in 1942.

Amos, although not on the podium, still gave introductory remarks as he maneuvered on a scooter with his elevated injured leg.

The orchestra will be under his direction at the next concert, January 28, at the First United Methodist Church, 1200 East H Street, Chula Vista, and January 30, Tifereth Israel Synagogue, 6660 Cowles Mountain Blvd. San Diego. The program will feature the acclaimed Russian-born mezzo-soprano, Suzana Poretzky, with music by Mahler, Haydn and Von-Suppe.

Wingard is a freelance writer who specializes in coverage of the arts. She may be contacted via [email protected]
Daniel Wnukowski’s website is

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