A far Cry
Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major, BWV 1048
Glass: Symphony No. 3
Bach: Keyboard Concerto in G Minor, BWV 1058
Glass: Piano Concerto No. 3
Simone Dinnerstein: Piano
Another season opening concert in New York City, another program featuring Philip Glass in what has to be the most extended – and most enjoyable – birthday celebration ever. On the other hand, needless to say that nobody’s really counting as we’re all too busy marveling at the opportunities and indulging into the music.
After the New York premiere of his 2015 Concerto for Two Pianos with the Labèque sisters and the New York Philharmonic last Friday night, it was his brand new Piano Concerto No. 3 that the packed audience in Columbia University’s Miller Theater got to hear last Thursday night, six days after its world premiere in Boston. On both occasions the musicians were the work’s dedicatee, Miller Theater regular and piano virtuoso Simone Dinnerstein, accompanied by the conductor-free and staunchly democratic chamber string orchestra A Far Cry.
And to make the evening even more irresistible, the program also included Philip Glass’ Symphony No. 3 as well as Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 and Keyboard Concerto in G Minor for good measure.
The concert started with Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, which also happens to be the most symphonic, and the shortest, among the six. Without missing a beat, the reduced orchestra authoritatively took control of the work with verve and precision, beautifully highlighting why Bach’s music remains so fascinating and timeless, namely the rigorously intricate structures and the quintessentially luminous undertones. Some things will never grow old.
Following a piece by Bach, let alone one of his most popular, can be no easy task for anybody, but Glass’ delightful symphony No. 3 effortlessly stood on its own thanks to the dynamite performance by the full orchestra. The short first movement got the ball rolling with infectious energy, the second movement grew into exciting complexity, the third and most important movement unfolded more slowly with fancy flights of lyricism from the principal violins, and the short fourth one concluded things swiftly and efficiently. It was the perfect mix of intellectual stimulation and pure fun.
After intermission, Simone Dinnerstein joined the orchestra and quickly demonstrated why she is widely considered a Bach expert. His Keyboard Concerto in G Minor is well-known for organically and flawlessly integrating piano and orchestra, and on Thursday night the easy rapport between the two components made for a very persuasive interpretation of it.
Readily moving from 18th century Germany to 21st century United States, Dinnerstein again applied her impressive dexterity and committed approach to Glass’ meticulously crafted, immediately engaging and often surprising third and latest piano concerto. Whether superbly playing the four exquisite cadenzas on her own or brilliantly blending with the orchestra, she delivered an informed and gripping performance of the constantly fresh and inventive score. The orchestra seamlessly joined in on cue and considerably contributed to the total success of the endeavor, which splendidly wrapped up the memorable evening.