Saturday, February 22, 2014

Roving Pittsburgher Report - Symphonic Test of Endurance - Review of the PSO's Casella, Prokofiev and Schumann Feb. 21st 2014 Performance

Symphonic Test of Endurance
Review of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's
Casella, Prokofiev and Schumann Feb. 21st 2014 
From:  Roving Pittsburgher Report and
Written By:  Stephanie Curtice  |  Feb. 22, 2014

Gianandrea Noseda
(photo courtesy:
Sussie Ahlburg 2012)
A flurry of musical energy filled Heinz Hall as guest conductor Gianandrea Noseda lead the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in a vivacious set of works that some may find a little less well known. The intensity each of the works demanded was shown in the aerobic conducting, feverish bowing, hustling percussion, and dramatic playing by piano soloist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet.

The concert opened with two sets from Alfredo Casella’s 1932 opera La Donna Serpent. Both featured bombastic martial themes peppered with lush melodies that beautifully highlighted the woodwinds. The second set began with a tinge of Middle Eastern sounds in “King Altidor’s Dream,” and then with each piece layering more and more energy the work culminated with a return to the blustering fury of “War March.”

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet
(photo courtesy: Paul Mitchell)
The intensity of the concert continued with Sergei Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 5 in G Major, featuring Jean-Efflam Bavouzet. The work has numerous thematic passages that are woven together through five movements with the complexity of a patterned friendship bracelet. Each of the colored strands represented by the piano soloist, trumpet proclamations, and swelling strings, intricately patterned with jarring syncopations, tangled dissonances, and large leaps in the prickly keyboard part. And as erratic as the piece itself maybe, Bavouzet played with a flair and confidence that both balanced with the orchestra and brought the chaotic piece into a very appreciable focus.

A delightful and fun addition to the concert was a quick little encore by French pianist, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, playing Debussy’s “La fille aux cheveux de lin.”

After a well deserved intermission break for Noseda and the orchestra, the concert ramped back up to finish with Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 2 in C Major. The robust work had a stirring feel that culminated in a Beethoven “Ode to Joy” feel that was victoriously grand and full of inspiration.

The programming of this concert was intense and a test of endurance. After noticing a smile on the face of almost every cellist during the second movement of the Prokofiev, I spoke to principle cellist Anne Martindale Williams. She said that pieces were fun, and confirmed the demand of this concert both due to the nature of the music itself and because they are less frequently played pieces. The exciting evening of symphonic grandeur was celebrated with standing ovations both at intermission and the end of the concert.

Additional Performances:
Sunday, Feb 23rd  |  2:30 PM  |  Heinz Hall

By:  Stephanie Curtice
Good News and Cultural Reporter
(c) 2014

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