“Euphonic Blues” composed by Nancy Galbraith was a marvelously melodic and classical sounding new composition which almost seemed like a throwback to perhaps the mid-twentieth century, the kind of music that I can really appreciate. The audience seemed to agree as there was plenty of applause after the composition was complete and the composer also came on stage to receive recognition.
A polymath is a world renowned expert in multiple fields. The Economist ranked Stephen Hough in the top 20! He is expert in composing, painting, writing, conducting and, of course, as a pianist. This last weekend I was able to watch him play the solo in Mendelssohn’s Concerto No. 1 in G minor for Piano and Orchestra, Opus 25. Indeed, wouldn’t it be grand to experience some of those other works he has composed, painted, written, conducted, or otherwise. On this particular occasion the Mendelssohn concerto wasn’t one I’ve experienced before, and it was fantastic. Isn’t it nice to discover something new that’s really good? This music was amazing. His fingers raced up and down the keyboard with the alacrity we might expect, yet this concerto was a surprise for numerous reasons, like the interplay between soloist and orchestra. To watch guest conductor Donald Runnicles seemingly dance a waltz with the Orchestra was a treat to behold.
I’ve been waiting a number of seasons to hear Orchestral Highlights from Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner. Beginning with
Die Walküre, Siegfried and ending with Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods). Needless to say it was a spectacular, yet brief, journey through this wonderful music. All the sections of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and especially the horns and brass, shined radiantly throughout the concert hall. Sounds echoed and reverberated in seemingly endless patterns of indescribable reflections and combinations of waves joining and separating to form a glorious amalgam perfectly blended just for me. Even at the back of Heinz Hall I was awed by the crisp clear sounds and the strings were not undone. I was also finally able to see a Wagner tuba, a brass instrument that combines tonal elements of both the French horn and the trombone, they had four of them, as well as four French horns (mostly it was 8 French horns and occasionally they would switch).
Here is a good synopsis of The Ring Cycle including Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung—the four epic operas that make up Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera.
The complete work of The Ring cycle is of epic scale, usually performed over four nights and lasting perhaps 15 hours. Here we got to hear just four selections in about one hour. But it doesn’t matter that I long for more, it was a wonderful journey nonetheless, and I’ll listen to much more on CDs or radio. But I’ll harken back in my mind, over and over, the wonderful live tones I heard at Heinz Hall as a steadfast baseline to measure against.
After the standing ovation the PSO, led by guest conductor Donald Runnicles, presented a rare encore of the entire orchestra as a treat for Patron Appreciation Month. Here they played a condensed Wagner’s Lohengrin – Prelude to Act III. WOW! What a way to end a concert. Afterwards I asked my daughter which piece she liked most. Her answer was Die Walküre, because I’ve played it so much at home or in the car and she remembers it the most.