The right place at the right time, that was my appointment with destiny. This evening at Heinz Hall suit the bill for the proper conjunction of these four dimensions, intersected with my presence, thus a confluence of sound, space and time dealt me a full hand, and I played it out to completion. Tchaikovsky was the featured composer this evening, thus beginning a two week run of compositions. Don’t be late for this performance, those first few bars of the Piano Concerto No. 1, in B-flat minor, is nothing to willingly miss. Those opening notes are one of the most famous in classical repertoire, and this was no exception.
Denis Matsuev played the piano with a furious depth of technical detail and delicate interpretation highlighted mostly by the many solo passages literally scattered throughout. The first movement contains a beautiful romantic part sandwiched between the scintillating opening, played exquisitely by both the PSO and Mr. Matsuev, and other sometimes incongruous passages mixed with pieces of flair. The enigma of Tchaikovsky sometimes confuses me, genius melodies, grand passages that seem just right, yet some parts of the 1st movement seem forced and not particularly coherent with the rest. Occasionally the soloist and the symphony seemed out of step, and I observed the conductor looking back to the soloist as if to say, get back on track. Yet it was certainly fantastic to hear and enjoy the journey, and I marvelled at his obvious skill.
Conductor Noseda led a heroic effort to bring this concert to our eager ears – he regained the timing quite nicely in the second and third movements which played out extremely well, the tone of the piano and the volume of the orchestra well balanced, and I enjoyed the amalgamation. From my seat I could see two monitors which faced the orchestra – obviously not meant for the audience. On those monitors was a view of Gianandrea Noseda conducting the orchestra and the soloist from the orchestra’s perspective. Wow- what a great thing, but why not make it viewable by the audience, I wondered to myself. From that view it seemed more natural, and looking back and forth between the back and the front view by alternating my attention, I was able to discern the subtle and marvelous movements of his baton and hands in a way that seemed to describe the music much better. It seems such a great idea to show the audience what the orchestra sees, and what I saw seemed more poetic than simply looking at his back.
After intermission came excerpts from Romeo and Juliet performed by actors, then the PSO played Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet with tenor James Flora and soprano Danielle Pastin singing – now this again was a wonderful treat as I’ve never hear it this way before – and to my surprise it was sung in Russian. Their voices were fantastic. Again we were treated to the actors on stage with excerpts from The Divine Comedy, Inferno, which was a fitting way to introduce “Francesca da Rimini.” This piece by Tchaikovsky is a sweeping composition somewhat like his symphonies. I’ve heard it before, but never like this. It was truly magnificent. The PSO did such a great job – afterwards the audience rose to instant and sustained to applause.