Friday, October 17, 2008

Pittsburgh Symphony - October 10, 2008

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra - Oct. 10
Conductor - Andris Nelsons
John Adams - The Chairman Dances
Christopher Theofanidis - Violin Concerto (World Premier) (with Sarah Chang)
Sergei Rachmaninoff - Symphony No. 2

First off, the conductor. I had never heard of Andris Nelsons, but wow - I have never seen someone conduct with their entire body like that. And not in the showy, pretentious, "look-how-musical-I-am" kind of way . . . the movement was so organic! Even his knees and feet were conducting (and I could see his movements this clearly from the next-to-last row of the top balcony). I couldn't take my eyes off of him most of the night. He's young (early 30's I think) - watch for this guy, I guarantee that you will hear about him if you haven't already.

Adams - The Chairman Dances
I wasn't into it at the beginning, but as it went on it developed a really neat groove. My favorite part was the ending. I didn't even realize it was happening until it was almost over, but the orchestra fades out bit by bit to leave the piano playing solo. Very neat effect.

Theofandis - Violin Concerto
Had never heard of this guy, but really enjoyed the piece. Since it was the world premier, he was there, and gave a little talk about the piece before they played it. It was interesting to hear the conductor talk about the creative process and talk us through the ideas that he used (illustrated by the concertmaster playing the excerpts as they were discussed).

The first two movements are lyrical, and the third is a technical showcase. The first movement was especially beautiful - at one point the violin section is playing a unison melody really softly on these whispered high harmonics while the soloist played a quiet countermelody . . . . I actually teared up a little. Eerie and haunting and gorgeous.

Sarah Chang - amazing. She is so musical. There was one particular passage where she played a series of repeated notes (sounded like one eighth note on beats one and three, separated by rests, or something to that effect), and I was just blown away by the fact that each individual eighth note sounded like a phrase in itself. How can one short note be so expressive???

I was ever so slightly underwhelmed by the last movement - not that she didn't play the ridiculously difficult thing perfectly (it was written for her to play at this performance, after all), but I just wanted some more power from her sound. I'm assuming this is because I was about as far away as I could possibly be, and she appeared to be about 4 inches tall from my seat. ;)

So, whenever a recording of this piece comes out, buy it. Stunningly beautiful. Modern, interesting, but still seems to be grounded in a lyrical aesthetic (even the fast part).

Also, Sarah Chang moves A LOT when she plays. At one point I was a little worried that she would fall over on some string players. She kicks her feet around and paces a bit. This is neither good or bad, just an observation, and it surprised me a little bit.
(And also, I just have to note that her dress was fabulous! Silver and sparkling in the light, backless, long, with a flared skirt.)

Rachi V was great, of course. Not quite as goosebump-worthy as Mahler was a couple of weeks ago, but it was so unbelievably solid and they really took it up a notch at the end. Great fun. Also, I'm pretty much in love with the principal clarinet player. He nails it every time - it's just perfect - his solos make me hold my breath.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your seat in the next-to-last row of the top balcony is possibly the best seat in the house acoustically. Any chance I get to go up there (including the recent trombone auditions) I do, because you get the ideal mix of the hall's reverb with the clarity of the sound focused by Heinz Hall's huge plaster ceiling. I wouldn't make excuses for any lack of projection on the part of any soloist or instrument group from that acoustic perspective. Bring binoculars, though.....and be in shape for the climb.