Compare and Contrast – Cynthia Closkey

Until a few weeks ago, I’d never heard a Stradivarius violin; now I’ve heard two, played by two world-class soloists. And since the start of the season I’ve heard three hugely talented but very different violinists play with the PSO.

Arabella Steinbacher looks like a frail little thing walking onto the stage, but once she starts to play she is fierce. See for yourself: here’s a clip of her performing Beethoven’s Violin Concert Part 6 with the NHK Orchestra earlier this year.

It’s tempting for me to try to compare the three violin soloists we’ve seen this season, but they are each distinct and brought to their performances their individual style and flair. I find that I would just like to hear more of all three.


The Shakespeare portion of this weekend’s “Shakespeare & Steinbacher” program had particular interest to me, being a theater-lover and all-around fan of the Bard.

Earlier this year, the Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre put on a nice production of King Lear — one that had a lot of humor amid the tragedy. Now we had the chance to hear the PSO present Hector Berlioz’s “King Lear Overture.” How would the two compare?

The orchestra sounded lovely. Yet I found the overture itself distinctly different from Shakespeare’s play — not only as PICT performed it but as a tragedy in general. I had expected minor keys, discordant sound, crashing sounds of storms and screams of discovered treachery; this overture is free of all that. It’s majestic, quite rich, and rather pretty. Nice, but not Lear-like to my ears.

Richard Strauss’s Macbeth though: That had the tragic sound down cold. As the PSO played it, this work sounded dark and scary, wild and cruel. It brought the evening to a crashing, gloriously crushing end.

(Photo credit: Scenes from Shakespeare – Macbeth taken by kimberlyfaye)

2 thoughts on “Compare and Contrast – Cynthia Closkey”

  • It’s been many years since I read Macbeth, and King Lear, that one is on my to read list..
    Thanks for the post, it’s nice to hear about these performances.

  • I completely agree with you in regard to Macbeth. The orchestra was the perfect soundtrack to the tragedy. Lady Macbeth herself was ubiquitous and I swear that you could hear the three witches cackle!

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