Perpetual Motion – Doug Bauman

Anticipation, that’s my initial sensation, while waiting for the “Dumbarton Oaks” Concerto by Igor Stravinsky. Such an intimate setting for the orchestra, clustered tightly as a small ensemble, seemingly so on the large stage at Heinz Hall. It began as a warm round of applause, as conductor Hannu Lintu appeared on stage without baton in hand; this would be conducted with hands only. The ‘principals only’ crew, arrayed around our guest maestro, in a compact semi-circle, commenced.

The beginning was perhaps like something that would be envisioned as an event at the Olympics, but no, that’s too big, perhaps a race at the park. The sound was obviously not as large, but was lyrical and pleasant, as most of the phrases went from high to low, marching in rhythm, the pulse and beat of the envisioned race, continually flowing with the occasional brief pause, and ending slowly. Between movements a bout of coughing suddenly burst forth from the audience, it seemed as if a quarter the audience was coughing in what seemed to be mocked and feigned, perhaps to say once and for all: please, no more coughing during the performance. Conductor Lintu turned part way towards the audience, and laughter burst forth, all this happening in the few moments between the first and second movement; Not a typical scene, and worth noting.

This brief look at Lintu’s humor aside, he next commenced the second movement with another flourish. This slow movement was quiet and tentative. The melody seemed to me to suggest these lyrics: “Count two, count three, stay airy and carefree; jaunty, frolic, but never catch a bee, I’m lucky and breezy.” The whole Stravinsky concerto was pleasant, and was a good choice as a companion to the Prokofiev concerto, both having the same sense of perpetual motion.

Conductor Lintu did a spectacular job this evening, filling in at the last moment. His technique and energy were contagious. I enjoyed watching his conducting style, sometimes stern, others expressive, and always full of zest and pizazz. If the PSO were so inclined, I would like to see him again at the helm.

Yuja Wang played a magnificent rendition of Prokofiev Piano Co. No. 2, along with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. I saw it on the internet prior, but that just doesn’t do this composition justice. It must be experienced in person, in a large concert hall like Heinz Hall. The sound is much bigger and grand. Watching the soloist was a treat. She not only played with stunning detail and amazing ability, her movements were spirited and accented many phrases with vitality. She seemed to meld with lyrical romantic parts, and race with spunky, get up and go, spirited passages.

Here is a video, same music, same pianist, but not the same orchestra

Some thoughts while watching and listening:
Pensive, then whirling like a march. Themes perhaps from Liszt and Tchaikovsky. Like a cascade, accelerating near the bottom of the falls, alarming and rejoining the orchestra. 2nd movement, with reverb, quick and fast like a chipmunk spinning and darting. 3rd movement, like a theme to a Hitchcock movie, interwoven with more themes from Liszt. Somewhat like the 2nd, but all grown up, now more like an elephant, with the conductor directing, arms and baton out like the trunk, rearing up the wind section, strings marching quite along. Reciting lyrics, mnemonic techniques remembered and revealed, almost whimsical, many voices, creatures scurrying all around. Now the cello versus the piano, a dramatic counterpoint, other instruments join in: don’t be alarmed with my syncopated rhythm. Crossed arms now on the piano, with beautiful low pitched keys, blending into finale.

Yuja Wang

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