Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tchaikovsky–Part One

A Saturday night at the St. Louis Symphony is a fine way to spend an evening.  I don’t know why I don’t do it more often.  I always intend to go more but then time gets away from me.  If I don’t have tickets in advance I don’t think to go.

Last fall I saw that the SLSO was performing the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 AND Piano Concerto No. 2 this season.  I love Tchaikovsky and I love piano concerti so I bought tickets for both.  This past weekend was the First Piano Concerto.  The orchestra was under the direction of David Robertson and the guest soloist was Yefim Bronfman.  It was a fine performance although I thought the performance got better as the work progressed. 

The opening of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano concerto is very famous with the piano and the orchestra playing together.  When piano and orchestra play simultaneously there is a chance that the piano might tend to get a bit drowned out by the orchestra. That almost but didn’t quite happen last night.  But that also might have been my choice of seats.  I’d much rather sit in the balcony at Powell Hall because I love the enveloping sound up there.  But I wanted to see the pianists hands so I chose orchestra level seats over to the side.  That might have accounted for the not-so-perfect acoustics.   I also felt that the there were moments (only moments, and rare ) where the orchestra and the pianist were not performing “as one” , but as they moved into the second portion of the first movement they began to work off of each other as they should and that feeling went away.

I’ve heard this concerto so many times that I didn’t think it was possible to have a new thought about it.  I’m always struck anew each time I hear it how the first part is so different from the rest of the concerto and how the rest of the concerto sounds like bits and pieces of one of his ballets (I always think of it as pieces of music rejected from Sleeping Beauty – which is not to say it is anything but exquisite).  But this time, as I listened to the second movement, I suddenly thought that it was as if the piano was intended to be the ballerina.  Perhaps it was the way Bronfman approached the work, but I thought it was quite charming, more charming than I normally do.

The second half of the program was Shostakovich Symphony No. 10 in E Minor.  Shostakovich is not my favorite composer but I didn’t mind this one.  There were parts that were a little boring but the second movement galloped along and was quite thrilling.  The symphony sounded superb under Robertson and made me want to go back and hear them again.

Which will happen in two weeks when I return to hear the Tchaikovsky Second Piano Concerto.  This time the guest pianist will be Stephen Hough who is also one of my favorite bloggers.  

For your listening pleasure here is Mr. Bronfman performing the third movement at the Herkulessaal, Munich Residenz conducted by Mariss Jansons.  They took it slightly faster than SLSO did. You can see the physicality required to perform this.