The first piece this evening conjured for me the following elements — Driving, stark, bold, dramatic, charismatic, chordal, hyperbolic, harmonic, melodious: all these words came to mind while listening to the first two movements of the Concerto for Orchestra (Zoroastrian Riddles) by Richard Danielpour. His music was certainly a joy for me to hear, for all the kinds of elements described by my adjectives, and for all the musical ideas that were some how conjured up while I listened. But to be sure, there were only a few moments of gentle tenderness in this particular composition, at least in the two movements that were performed so well by the PSO this night. The two soft moments came during the second movement, and were indeed finely woven feathery fixtures delicately wrapped between the driving rhythmic undertone which sustained the piece so well.
Before the work began, Mr. Danielpour himself introduced his composition, written in 1995, by indicating we would be hearing a series of voices, like a giant forum or committee, and by the end, it would be as if humanity would all be saying the same thing and become one.
Next came one of my favorites, Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5, with the solo being performed by Stefan Jackiw. Mr Jackiw’s performance seemed only slightly hesitant, yet technically sound during the first movement. But then came the second movement, and the passion was instantly set loose. Now we see the true tenderness and gentle heart that brought to mind my opening riddle (zart). Mr. Jackiw and the PSO instantly flowed together as a sweet amalgamation. Now we finally know the answer to my riddle… What’s soft yet subtle, delicate yet fine, fragile yet tender, and gently sensitive through every bar? The PSO with Stefan Jackiw playing Mozart’s Concerto No. 5. The third and final movement was again another form of riddle, or a kind of wrapping, which began sweetly and vividly, then suddenly transformed into a kind of driving waltz, a kind of mini-scherzo, embedded withing the main parts of this movement, finally to return to the sound which was as before, to provide a fine ending with a gentle smile. Was this Mozart’s riddle, written in music?
Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30. What’s there to say… the opening says it all, a huge sweeping sound. We’ve all heard it in 2001, A Space Odyssy. Now I hear it live, along with the rest of the composition. I have to say, other than the opening, I really only liked the quieter parts of this music (zart). There was one part in particular where the bases started off low, in grand fashion, not something you hear every day, or even every year. Then it gradually transitioned from right to left until the whole orchestra was playing. That was genius! It was definitely Richard Strauss, the sound I could instantly recognize, but on the whole it wasn’t as good, in my mind, as his other compostions, especially the one I really like which was the Alpine Symphony as performed last November by the PSO.
And then there was the conductor, Maestro Andris Nelsons, who I really like very much. This is the second time I’ve seen him conduct the PSO. His style was stunning, with a perfect mix of aspects — Effervescent yet not overpowering – demanding yet cordial – And his enthusiasm and smile seemed to sweep across the orchestra. His body movements were very animated, but not too much so as to take away from the soloist in the violin concerto. It was as if he was carving a beautiful sculpture, and then molding form from clay, next swimming as a swan in a lake, then walking a tightrope, and various other graceful gestures which with his body and hands formed the very texture of the music.
And finally this poem, while it begins with the advent of autumn, it also sums up the diverse forms of music experienced this evening:
Shifting shapes are formed by wafting breezes
as hue, saturation, and brightness – they adorn the ardent eye.
Subtle desires burn as yellow and orange conflagrations
indebted to the loss of green whence envy makes me sigh.
Riddles are curious forms of words and modes of thoughts
transformed to fit analogy and context quickly on the fly.
Curiosity has a hundred heads, our visage sees but one,
enhance mind’s eye to fit the sky and let your mind comply.