Well, hello there, 2011-2012 season. This is my fourth year as a blogger, so I suppose that I can no longer call myself a “newbie.” I certainly wouldn’t have been at all cognizant of the fantastic performances that take place in Heinz Hall, had it not been for this blogging gig (and I’m thankful that the PSO is putting up with yet another year of with my crazy ramblings). I’ve experienced some pretty amazing performances at Heinz Hall; needless to say, I was not surprised to learn about the electrifying reception that our beloved PSO had received in Europe. I think that it’s easy to become complacent about the fact that we, lil ol’ Pittsburgh, have a ridiculous amount of symphonic talent in our own backyard. We take it for granted sometimes. They are some of the best musicians in the world. Let me just insert a disclaimer now: the PSO does not pay me to write for them. I do not write commercials. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own…and my “own opinion” is that the PSO consistently produces musical excellence that is inspiring, superb and underappreciated. And by the way, there are some absolutely amazing performances coming up this season. I’ve already started my official “Countdown to Joshua Bell” (eight months, 12 days and roughly 4.5 hours).
Let’s chat about the opening weekend, shall we? Steven Stucky is the 2011-2012 “Composer of the Year,” so naturally, we were treated to a performance of one his compositions. I’m one of those freakish people who dislike it when her meat and potatoes touch each other; as such, I was only lukewarm with regard to Dreamwaltzes. It was a varied composition with a bit of everything—it reminded me of a musical salad. Just as I was easing myself into the flowing, easygoing waltz, the music became erratic and jarring, almost sashaying into The Land of the Experimental. It was like dumping iced water into a warm bath. I did, however, find that Dreamwaltzes retained my ever-meandering attention throughout the performance—there’s definitely something to be said for that. For that reason alone, I’m going to make an effort to hear more of Mr. Stucky’s work this season.
And then there was the concerto by what’s-his-name…that Gershwin guy [insert poorly executed sarcasm here]. I *heart* him. I wish that George Gershwin was alive today, if only to allow me the opportunity to hug him. Everything the man wrote, or at least everything that I’ve heard, absolutely glitters. His Concerto in F Major can best be described as moments of refined, elegant symphonic rapture, punctuated by that unmistakable, glitzy Gershwin flair. Would it be out of line for me to suggest that maybe, just maybe, the musicians should have worn sequins for this? According to the program notes (and much love, as always, to the PSO Programs Gods), Gershwin himself played the piano for the PSO’s premier of Concerto in F Major in 1933. For obvious reasons (not the least of which is the fact that he’s been dead since 1937), Gershwin couldn’t play the piano this weekend; we were, however, treated to a brilliant performance by Rudolf Buchbinder. I’ve experienced many piano performances at the PSO, but Mr. Buchbinder was quite exceptional. His technique was tender and delicate—there was a softness to the sound that I’d never before heard on the piano. It was extremely moving.
I guess that I’m developing a bit of a Gershwin obsession. For those who still crave more Gershwin (and I would certainly count myself as one), the Pops will be performing The Gershwins – Here to Stay in June. Who could ask for anything more?
Sorry, I couldn’t resist.