One must savor each note and piece of virtuosity granted to us by the musicians, for once a note sings, flies, dances, or soars into the air it is of the past.
This past weekend with the PSO was an enticing one to say the least. The performance began as Composer of the Year Steven Stucky entered the stage and introduced his world premiere of “Silent Spring”. Manfred Honeck unveiled this world premiere and PSO commission through the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Pittsburgh environmentalist Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.
“Silent Spring” was dramatic, exciting, and dark. It was full of depth and an intricate message full of meaning and longing to be heard and recognized. As I have stated before on accepting and welcoming modern works, it is always hard to” take-in” the work. But, every work deserves a chance to be heard. I was surprised how much I was intrigued by this piece. Stucky’s trenchant composing gives us perplexing imagery, and emotional questions to life. I must say, “Silent Spring” was my favorite Stucky composition yet! Stucky, like Shostakovich is a master in creating “planned chaos” in music, which I love. The end of “Silent Spring” was should I say, frightening? Low drums beat in an apprehensive silence, and at the end only Honeck’s baton is slightly swaying until the last stroke and the completion of the work is silence. It was as if I came out of a trance at the break of the silence into roaring applause.
Next, acclaimed violinist Nikolaj Znaider inhabited the stage as he delivered a heartrending performance of Jean Sibelius’ Concerto in D minor for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 47. His interpretation of the concerto had an anguished feel to it; opposed to some of the more light filled interpretations I have heard. Nevertheless, Znaider’s performance did not cease to captivate and satisfy. The beginning was probably my favorite part of the performance. The handsome, weeping controlled tone Znaider produced by the first note flourished out of nowhere. Shortly after the beginning takes flight and the violin takes a rest, the clarinets enter and the violin brilliantly enters again. It is at this point in the concerto of the 1st movement that I have thought of as the chorus. The cadenza was fantastically thrilling. One must savor each note and piece of virtuosity granted to us by the musicians, for once a note sings, flies, dances, or soars into the air it is of the past. The 2nd movement brings an image to mind of a beautiful garden, slightly over grown and clouded and of the past. It is set a long time ago, with no absolute date. The PSO represented the clouds and fog to me here, (no offense PSO) and Znaider represented the sun proudly shining through the vines and clouds proclaiming its beauty to the garden. With each crescendo and decrescendo the sun becomes more prominent and less. The scene fades—the garden going first and the orchestra (clouds and fog) engulfs the Znaider (sun) and a mystical, sparkling dust falls to the previous area of the garden an onto us at the audience. The 3rd movement was very happy to me. Znaider and Honeck even exchanged a smile at one point near the beginning of the movement. I felt there was a connection ever present between Znaider and the PSO that led to the triumphant and thrilling finale! After the roaring applause and standing ovation Znaider prepared to play an encore saying, “I was told if I played quickly I could play something” to which Sarabande in D minor by Bach elicited from his violin.
Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique” Symphony closed the wonderful evening of glorious music. It encompassed the full range of human emotion—very passionate, triumphant, nostalgic, and a time to reflect and collect. The 2nd movement began with a luscious opening from the cellos which the violins seized as the piece progressed. The 3rd movement was happy and at one point there was a domino effect of plucking all through the orchestra. The finale was memorable and delightful as the PSO and Honeck are capable of delivering through their unbelievable artistry concert after concert.