Radically Light!

Yesterday I went to Heinz Hall to see Xian Zhang conduct the PSO and special guest Xiang Yu perform Stucky, Prokofiev, and Schumann. Here is my review:

The Good:
*Xiang Yu, the featured solo violinist of last night’s perfomance of Sergei Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 2 in g minor for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 63 (making his PSO debut). He was elegant, technically perfect, and certainly easy on the ears. He’s a young phenom and he definitely showed why. I do have to say that for as technically proficient as he was, I wasn’t 100% swept up into the narrative of the Concerto. I’ve been super spoiled by hearing the great, fantastic J. Bell (that would be Joshua Bell) and he somehow combines awe-inspiring technique with wonderful, rich storytelling. The violin really does weep and laugh and giggle and shout at the hands of J. Bell. Yu’s violin didn’t really do that. At least not for me.

*Steven Stucky’s Radical Light. I felt like I was listening to something out of Fantasia. My mind lit up with images of a firefly, a storm, a dark forest and dancing hippos. It was great.

* The program liner notes. I don’t know who is in charge, but from one writer to another, wow. What beautiful descriptions, and totally spot on! In particular, “The movement continues, passionate and eloquent, with the bounding main theme almost constantly in evidence…it is abruptly cut off to make way for the wistful Romanze, based on a haunting melody sung by the oboe. Following a limpid section graced with flowing triplet figures from the solo violin, the oboe melody returns briefly before pausing on an inconclusive harmony that resolves only as the tempestuous Scherzo begins…”

Absolutely spot on and excellently written. Am I reading about music or a French dessert?

*Symphony seats. I had forgotten over the summer just how comfortable they are. 🙂 And in a similar vein, congrats on whoever controls the heating in the building. They didn’t just assume because it was cold out to crank on the heat. It was really very comfortable on Sunday.

*The special lighting in the Hall that reminded everyone that this is the 40th year for the Symphony! Bon Anniversaire!!!

The Bad:
*Xian Zhang. And I mean she was bad in the very best best way ever. Bad like Michael Jackson bad. And she knows it. Wow, did she ever know it. First, she’s the cutest thing ever with a Joshua Bell-esque haircut (meaning it flew in the wind she was creating). She was dressed in a smart, semi-androgynous cut suit and came out for her PSO premiere to warm applause. She conducted the first half of the program with flair and seemingly boundless energy. Seemingly that is….until the second half of the show.

Zhang took the reins of Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 in D minor. Amazingly, she did it all by memory! I was astounded. It was fantastic to see. But more than that…talk about energy! If I thought she really attacked the Prokofiev piece, she pretty much annihilated the Schumann. She reminded me of Yan Pascal Tortelier, the French composer I was sure would fall right off his conductor’s podium because he was bouncing around so madly. Truly, Zhang was a sight to behold as she wielded her baton like some lightning bolt.

The Ugly:
Worrying Zhang’s baton would fly right out of her hand and literally poke my eye out.

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