Other Articles in this Category
REVIEW: The unexpected sends the Phil's 'Rachmaninoff' soaring
Who: Colorado Springs Philharmonic
When: 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
Where: The Pikes Peak Center, 190 S. Cascade Ave.
Tickets: $19-57; 520-SHOW, pikespeakcenter.org
It's not how the orchestra always does it.
The concert's soloist usually plays in the first half of the program, except when the piece he or she is performing is the longest one in the program. It didn't happen that way Saturday night for the Colorado Springs Philharmonic's penultimate Masterworks concert, "Rachmaninoff." The shorter work, featuring pianist Gleb Ivanov, followed the longer one, William Walton's First Symphony. This musical "heresy" proved to be a stroke of genius for had the evening started with Rachmaninoff, large numbers of the audience would probably have passed on the Walton.
Completed in 1935, the great English composer's orchestral masterpiece is rarely performed. The aggressive and emotionally-wrought score still pales by comparison to the cutting edge work of its age. Rather than exploding out of the gate, Philharmonic Music Director Josep Caballé-Domenech chose an understated start to a work that usually crackles from the get-go. In its place was impressive clarity of motif as orchestra and conductor seemed bent on retrieving all possible detail from Walton's brilliant orchestral palette.
As the opening movement progressed, Caballé-Domenech did make the music work. He focused on the architecture of the Allegro assai and he built a shattering climax that took full advantage of the Pikes Peak Center's rich, reverberant acoustic. And as is his artistic signature, he did so without "maestro histrionics." He is all about the music, a quality that no doubt continually endears him to his new orchestra.
The composer's anger at a woman, who dumped him during the time of this symphony's composition, goes full bore in the Scherzo and the orchestra was in total sync as they whipped off an orchestral fireworks display that had the sold-out house gasping for air.
The slow movement, which follows, was impressive for many reasons. The orchestra never let go of its intense concentration which yielded the potent passion and pain intended. The flute of Susan Townsend, clarinet of Sargei Vassiliev, oboe of Guy Dutra-Silveira, and bassoon of Alex Viera were all expressive and beautiful.
This set up a stunning reading of the optimistic final movement (Walton got a new girlfriend) that was a glorious musical ride. Here, the precision of orchestra and conductor was on display. Caballé-Domenech was like a painter and every brushstroke was eagerly responded to by his orchestra.
It's become a forgone conclusion that the crop of piano soloists emerging on the scene today come armed with mind-boggling technique. So as the imposing figure of the 29-year-old Gleb Ivanov took the stage for one of the greatest challenges in the repertoire, Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto, there was little doubt that the quarter of a million or so notes the soloist must render would be executed.
Sublime artistry from such a youthful source? Not really expected. So much for preconceived notions.
Josep and company did a superb job of offering support and sounded luscious. But this evening belonged to Ivanov.
The Russian pianist surprised with a light and detailed playing at first. But it wasn't too long until the essence of his playing came through: complete facility with an almost innate ability to shape and express the poignant melodies demanded by Rachmaninoff. These only come to life through becoming one with the piano.
A few details deserve some attention. The pianist's recap of the first movement's opening theme was pure poetry. The give and take of Ivanov's conversation with orchestra in the expressive second movement was breathtaking. His ability to explode the sound through the ring and pinky fingers of his right hand is something heard only on recordings from legendary pianists.
There was also a very special kind of artistic alchemy here. Both Ivanov and Caballé-Domenech are large men and yet neither resorts to the kind of demonstrative physical gestures that often fill the concert stage. Their musical philosophy was completely simpatico.
After all the excitement that can and did generate from a musical experience such as this, Ivanov sent us gently into the evening with an encore of the Bach-Siloti Prelude in B minor. Let us hope this is not the last we will hear from this great artist.