A snowy Friday night in February was warmed by Pittsburgh Symphony’s concert of classics. Friday night’s program was led by Juraj Valčuha and featured Joshua Roman, in his debut performance, as the soloist. To kick off Valentine’s Day weekend, the Symphony performed some romantic works that reminded the audience of their love for classical music.
The night began with a quiet cello entrance, echoed by the winds, in Wagner’s “Prelude und Liebestod” from Tristan und Isolde. The barely audible entrance had the audience on the edge of their seats, waiting to see what would come next. Punctuated by translucent pianos and marked sforzando, this piece was hypnotizing. Valčuha, the conductor, was sensitive, clear and over the top in the best way. His enthusiasm for the pieces was evident and added a lot to the performance.
The soloist feature of the night, Joshua Roman, walked out onto the stage next. Roman was clad in an entirely velvet suit complete with emerald green velvet jacket and matching bow tie. His youthful appearance and slender stature graced the stage. The orchestra began the Dvořák Concerto in B minor, Opus 104 with a long introduction. Roman moved with the orchestra and looked around, engaging with the orchestra. The first movement was accented,energetic and syncopated. Bill Caballero, on French horn, was featured with many solos. His warm sound added to the cello solos and made a great landscape for the piece. The concerto showcased both Roman’s energetic and heavy sides juxtaposed by the romantic and sensitive style. His range of styles and characters was impressive. Roman doesn’t have the added over-the-top showmanship that some soloists today have in order to engage the audience. Instead, he plays honestly and without affectation. His playing was both focused and sensitive.
Roman was gracious enough to play an encore, to the audience’s delight. He performed Bach’s Prelude from Cello Suite No. 1. His romantic interpretation accentuated his smooth and crystal clear sound. Effortlessly, he missed not a single note. This was a perfect ending to an incredible performance by Roman.
The second half of the program featured two crowd favorites, the first of which was Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet. This piece was a whirlwind of emotion, and of course featured the ever famous love theme. As the theme took over the orchestra, the audience was again reminded of this weekend’s holiday!
Last was Bizet’s Suite from Carmen. The piece featured many soloists within the orchestra including guest concertmaster, Michelle Kim. Her solos were clear, commanding and intense. Her ability to lead the orchestra was brilliant and her playing was both forthright and beautiful. The six short movements of this piece were the perfect icing on top of an evening of wonderful music.