11/13 – Leonidas Kavakos, Tchaikovsky, and Respighi – Christina Johnson

A confession – for as much as I love orchestral music, only
occasionally does an orchestra concert hold my complete undivided attention
from start to finish. By virtue of
programming conventions (overture/concerto/symphony) and a need to mix up
styles and eras within a concert, there’s usually at least one piece on a
program that spurs my mind to wander about 5 minutes into the piece.

Not last weekend.

Leonidas Kavakos’ performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin
Concerto absolutely floored me. He had
me during every single phrase. Maybe
this is too large of a comparison, (forgive me, I’m not a violinist) but the
rapt attention I felt toward Kavakos’ Tchaikovsky was a similar experience to the
first time I heard the Yehudi Menuhin recording of the Beethoven Violin
Concerto. Whatever it was that captured
me seemed to have captured the whole audience, because the audience gave him a
GENUINE standing ovation. Pittsburgh overall seems to be a very standing-ovation-friendly
city, but this was a *real* one, the kind where 90% of the audience leaps to
their feet right after the final note, and keeps applauding intensely through
five curtain calls and an encore.

Hopefully Pittsburgh will have Kavakos back soon, and for now I’ll enjoy his recordings.

I also wanted to call attention to one of the best lines
I’ve ever seen in program notes (written by Joseph and Elizabeth Kahn, about the concerto):

“What defeated Russia’s leading violin virtuoso [Leopold Auer] is
the stuff teenage prodigies cut their teeth on at Juilliard and Curtis, practicing
the killer bits ad nauseam until they get it right or find some other career.”

Respighi is a composer I’m generally somewhere between positive and indifferent
towards, but perhaps the magic and the energy of the concerto spilled over to
the second half of the program? Respighi’s Metamorphoseon was new to my ears, and I’m quite surprised
it’s not a more commonly performed work. (What a horn solo!!) I couldn’t
see well from my seat, but I do believe the bass clarinetist got a solo bow,
which makes me happy. The Pines of Rome
was lovely as always. The Pines Near A Catacomb
movement brought to my mind similar, contemplative and solitary elements of Rachmaninoff’s Isle
of the Dead, which the PSO performed in October. The solo clarinet was absolutely beautiful in
the The Pines of the Janiculum
movement.

Due to the holidays, I’ll be out of town for the
next Mellon Grand Classics concert, with Maestro Tortelier.  I’m very
sad that I’ll have to miss the amazing Pittsburgh Symphony winds
playing Daphnis et Chloe, but I hope everyone enjoys it!

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Nov 15