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Friday, December 04, 2020

On the Money

From the Classical Vault Dept.: The internet can be as opaque as it is revealing. I dug out the below review, which I wrote 35 years ago, and set out to find conductor Stan Rubin. He is eluding me. I remember meeting him in a coffeeshop back then for an interview, and he was eager and full of energy as he described his musical ambitions. And we lost touch. An internet search is occluded by the existence of an identically named clarinetist and bandleader. Got any leads on the whereabouts of this fellow?


“LOVE OR MONEY” is a symphony orchestra that, for now, plays for love.

A concert Sunday evening at the Albany Jewish Community Center proved that the orchestra’s heart is in the right place, even if some of its technical equipment is not.

Mykola Lysenko
Founder and music director Stan Rubin conducted a program that featured a delightful performance of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 17 in G. Soloist Luba Lischynsky, a Schenectady native now living in New Hampshire, played with a rare understanding of Mozart's style. A sense of control is most important: the pulse must be maintained even as phrases are varied and embellished.

This kind of collaboration is good discipline for an orchestra. The Love or Money members, still developing a smooth voice, found a challenge here, particularly in the second movement, where sustained passages require precise intonation.

It is important to recognize that the group is not a professional orchestra. Not yet, anyway. Rubin took on the challenge of starting an orchestra from scratch two years ago and he acknowledges that it takes time to gain credibility – and to bring in the kind of budget that allows good players to have sufficient rehearsal time.

He has good players: some of the region’s top people are on the roster. But it’s still a semi-pro orchestra and must be judged in that light.

A soloist benefits immeasurably from the opportunity to work with an orchestra in front of an audience. Lischynsky had a problem with the ends of phrases, occasionally losing them the way an actor loses the end of a line. But the problem disappeared even as the performance was in progress, and that’s very satisfying evidence of a good partnership. For its part, the orchestra needs a better sense of dynamic consistency: an accompanying passage should be the same volume each time it appears.

A major objective of the orchestra is to share music with people who might ordinarily not have access to such a group, and this attitude was evident in some subtle ways. Programming, for one thing. Mozart often gets obscured by a lot of Romantic-era warhorses, but the three other works on the program – all of them Romantic – weren’t of the type to do that.

The Farandole from Bizet’s “L’Arlesienne” Suite is a very popular, instantly recognizable piece. The orchestra has played it often and the practice showed in a polished performance.

Beginning the second half was Schubert’s “Rosamunde” Overture. It shared with the Bizet a need for a larger orchestra; although Rubin has worked on a clear, grand interpretation, there are notes for which the small violin section just couldn’t agree upon a pitch. That’s a problem that by no means negates a sincere performance. Like a workshop production of a play, this is an orchestra in progress.

The concert was sponsored by the organization “Americans for Human Rights in Ukraine,” and began with an address by the group’s local leader, Walter Litynsky. He dedicated the performance to the memory of Ukranian poet and dissident Vasyl Stus, who died in September in a Soviet labor camp.

The program closed with the 19th-century “Taras Bulba” Overture by Ukrainian composer Mykola Lysenko. A very Russian character to the music was reminiscent of Tchaikovsky at his most nationalistic, and the orchestra did an excellent job with it.

“Love or Money” has ambitions that commend it to the top ranks of performing ensembles: its only handicap lies in the size and varied skill of the personnel. Crafty programming could continue to be a way around that, and the group should save the big Brahms symphonies for the monster orchestras and continue to explore the repertory for smaller ensembles.

– Schenectady Gazette, 3 December 1985

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