Saturday, October 27, 2012

Cleveland Orchestra: Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto

Liadov: The Enchanted Lake, Op. 62
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18 (Simon Trpceski, piano)
[Encore] Piece for solo Piano (Simon Trpceski, piano)
Sibelius: Symphony Mo. 2 in D major, Op. 43
Robin Ticciati, conductor.

Once again The Cleveland Orchestra provided a dazzling performance; while each of the pieces could have aptly stood on its own or provided ballast for a lesser performance but together the program left nothing to be desired -- except perhaps more.

The Enchanted Lake, one of the shortest pieces I've heard the Orchestra play outside of a pops concert, at just about five minutes, emerged from darkness as a quiet [the first several bars were, essentially, lost to a chorus crinkling programs and shifting patrons]. The overall sound generally captured a mystical place with a dark and murky feel, of particular note, the sounds from the celesta [for some reason "struck idiophone" always makes me giggle] instantly reminded me of dripping water.

In listening to the magnificent performance of Rachmaninoff's second piano concerto by Simon Trpceski with the Orchestra I found myself wondering my general distaste for the genre may simply because I've never found a pianist worth loving. Mr. Trpceski fills that void and meshes wonderfully with the Orchestra. The moods of the three movements could easily be phases of a romance: The first is dark, stormy, and intensely passionate appeal. The second movement takes a cooler tone and, as the program note mentions, seems apt for a romantic candle lit dinner -- in listening I felt like I was eavesdropping on a dinner date conversation between pianist and orchestra. The third movement was more dramatic than the second and less tense than the first, with the Orchestra taking the forefront.

While I spent much of the piece with my eyes closed just absorbing the wonderful sounds emanating from the stage, in the second movement I opened my eyes during a moment while Mr. Trpceski was playing unaccompanied to watch maestro Ticciati's baton slowly sweep, parallel to the floor and otherwise motionless, from left to right, as if a teacher selecting a student, before arriving at and engaging with a flute, invited to join the piano.

After his dazzling performance (and one of the quickest standing ovations I can remember) Mr. Trpceski announced that he was "very sad to have to leave Cleveland tomorrow" and offered an encore that was as engaging and captivating as it was fast-paced; though he announced the composer and the piece from the stage I wasn't able to make note of it -- though it was based on folk piece.

Finally, one of my favorite composers -- and one who doesn't get programmed nearly enough -- Jean Sibelius's Symphony No. 2 which begins punctuated with delightful -- if repetitive -- material that coalesces into a delightful whole; the second movement begins on an aggressive note (with pizzicato basses and cellos) before calming with a gentle violin that picks up a more full-bodied sound. The fourth and final movement, though, is some of my favorite orchestral music with broadly cinematic climaxes that just pull you in.


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