Friday, June 12, 2009

BSO - Rachmaninoff & Wagner - 06/11/09

Conductor: Marin Alsop
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No 3 in D minor, Op. 30 - Yefim Bronfman
Wagner: Orchestral Selections from The Ring of the Nibelungen

During the intermission, Marin Alsop promised to finish the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's official season with something "strong", and she sure did. Already on paper the program looked like a sure-fire hit - the concert was heart-warmingly sold-out - and it only got better live. The presence of famed pianist virtuoso Yefim Bronfman is always a guarantee of high quality and worth the trip to the concert hall regardless of what he is playing, but the fact that it was no less than the mighty "Rach 3" was yet another irresistible bonus. I haven't managed to see the Ring operas in sequence yet, but really don't mind being reminded what I'm missing once in a while.

Commonly considered the Himalaya of piano concertos, "Rach 3" is first and foremost one of the most stunningly beautiful concertos of the whole répertoire. It may have reached world-wide fame as the uncontrollable force driving poor Geoffrey Rush to insanity in the movie "Shine", but it is ultimately its exceptional expressiveness that will take the audience to a higher ground. After an innocently inconspicuous opening, the piano takes charge and does not let off until the very end, even if yesterday the woman behind me coughing her heart out for a good 10 minutes did spoil part of it. Far from the unwelcome ruckus, Yefim Bronfman used his natural aplomb and well-known virtuosity, all the more remarkable that he probably cannot boast the same enormous hands as Rachmaninoff's, to tame the beast and delivered a steadily assured performance. It is easy to forget the orchestra in such circumstances, but the BSO did not fail to rise to the occasion and brilliantly emphasized all the sweeping and lush Romantic sounds sumptuously filling the concert hall.
Such a performance is a tough act to follow, but as la maestra promised, something strong was coming our way. The one hour we got to savor from Wagner's 16-hour landmark work, The Ring of the Nibelungen, was just the perfect balance between restless, rousing wind sounds and quietly introspective passages. Seamlessly flowing from one excerpt to another, we were happily willing participants to the emotional-philosophical oeuvre of the 19th century. Although I was not familiar enough with the whole Ring to place each and every piece we heard, I was quite satisfied to just kick back, enjoy the wonderful ride in Wagner's world... and end my BSO's season with one fell swoop.

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