Saturday, October 31, 2009

National Philharmonic - Bach, Brahms & Beethoven - 10/31/09

Conductor: Piotr Gajewski
Bach: Keyboard Concerto No 5 in F Minor, BWV 1056 - Brian Ganz
Brahms: Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra in A Minor, Op. 102 (Double Concerto) - Elena Urioste & Zuill Bailey
Beethoven: Concerto for Piano, Violin, Cello and Orchestra in C Major, Ip. 56 (Triple Concerto) - Brian Ganz, Elena Urioste & Zuill Bailey

With my body safely back on US soil and my mind hopefully following soon, I decided that the best way to deal with the oh so abrupt return (but they always are, aren't they?) to reality was, what else, a little bit of music. As luck would have it, the National Philharmonic had just the perfect little pick–me-up for my sluggish spirits in "The Three Bs", a judiciously put together program featuring three German giants of classical music: Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, each representing a distinct period and genre in classical music, in some cases informing one other. But regardless of the fascinating musicological study, I was mostly interested in hearing some engaging compositions back in my dear Strathmore, which, I have to say, looked a bit blah after the spectacular concert halls I had been visiting the past couple of weeks. Some uplifting music was, however, there.

And what better company to get things started than Bach and his novel-at-the-time, three-movement keyboard concerto, a form that had recently been imported from Italy? By turns vigorous and contemplative, it was a lively piece that was enhanced by the harmonious collaboration between orchestras and soloist. Pianist Bruno Ganz proved he could easily handle the task at hand, attractively vivacious during the Allegro and the Presto, quietly melodic in the Largo.
Second on the program while third in chronological order, Brahms’ Double Concerto was in fact his last orchestral work and turned out to be as complex and involving as any of his symphonies. Guest violinist Elena Urioste and cellist Zuill Bailey may be young in years, but they put their promising skills to good use, whether individually or together, and brought harmonious clarity to the uncommon composition.
Although it was written between Bach and Brahms, having Beethoven’s Triple Concerto performed at the end of the concert actually made complete sense because it required the three soloists to fully participate in various combinations, creating a truly rare but immensely enjoyable ensemble. That worked!

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