A Captivating Opening Night

Friday’s concert marked the captivating opening of the PSO’s 2011-2012 BNY Mellon Grand Classics Season. I was privileged to experience all the nuances of color and tone that this magical night of sheer music held.

The first composition known by all was The Star Spangled Banner. It was arresting and might I add unusual to see the whole orchestra standing, as pure stars of beauty elicited from their instruments. To hear such a well-known piece that we may take for granted, performed by the PSO was wonderful.

Next the orchestra took us through the eerie yet quite inviting Dreamwaltzes by Steven Stucky, PSO’s “Composer of the Year” for 2011-2012. From Dreamwaltzes intriguing start that had twilight zone qualities, to its mysterious end I was transported to a dream for those 15 minutes. It would be a dream that you would be torn to stay or leave. I must say the piece had schizophrenic qualities such as you thought it was going in one direction but would sharply turn to another. The piece, how shall I pose this, sounded frightened. Unstable, it was not, but it evoked a somewhat frightening feel at times. But, it held true to its title – a dream waltz indeed; one that I would love to experience all over again.

The main highlight of the show was Rudolf Buchbinder on the piano. Where to begin with the awe-inspiring interpretation of Gershwin’s jazz-inspired Concerto in F? Buchbinder’s joy of playing was an immense contributing dynamic to what made his performance exceedingly pleasurable. One beautiful aspect of his performance was the fact that he was so actively involved. Even during the rest periods when he was not playing he was simply enjoying himself as he swayed to the music and shuffled his hands and feet with the rhythm. He could not contain his joy that so evidently spilled out into the audience and the hall. The concerto had the Gershwin mark – yet classical music is ageless and spans all centuries. I loved the musical conversation that galloped between Buchbinder and the orchestra. And when the orchestra swelled to the heights of beauty Buchbinder added charmingly. The concerto as a whole with its many movements created a mesmerizing scene that when entered you would not want to leave. Buchbinder’s incredible skills to make the notes not only speak, but sing (with embellishments) was the icing to the many thrilling layers of the orchestra to Gershwin’s masterpiece. The violent finale to the concerto was followed by very worthy, roaring applause and many standing ovations. Buchbinder graced us with the lilting encore of Strauss/Grünfeld’s Soirée de Vienne Op. 56 “Fledermaus” to which many minutes of exuberant applause and standing ovations followed once more.

To the grand finale of the concert were Modest Mussorgsky’s sweepingly enchanted Pictures at an Exhibition (1847) orchestrated by Maurice Ravel (1922). How can one summarize the many movements that accompany the intricacies that Mussorgsky musically has locked in these sketches by his friend, artist and architect, Victor Hartmann? It may have been helpful and enjoyable for the audience if the pictures (displayed in the lobby and in the program notes) would have been displayed on the backdrop behind the musicians as each movement in the piece represented a picture. One emotion could never be capable of naming this incredible work as it appealed to every sense. The regal, intense, thrilling, phenomenal, and transporting ‘pictures’ in this work cannot begin to even touch the magnificence of the genius composers and the PSO’s artistry they radiantly conveyed to the audience.

Once again I would like to express what a marvelous opening night this was for Heinz Hall and how much I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I would gladly revisit this night again.

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