CSO maestro, soloist bring new feeling to familiar work
The Columbus Symphony Orchestra and maestro Alessandro Siciliani present this weekend perhaps their most interesting program so far this season, one with a Russian shell and a French heart. Or is it that simple?
You never know when you are going to hear something entirely new in a familiar piece of music. Of course, that has happened more frequently at the symphony in recent years. It happened again last night in this Ohio Theatre concert.
In their interpretation of Ravel's Piano Concerto in G Major, pianist Ivan Moravec, guest artist, and Siciliani seemed to be enjoying encounters with Stravinsky and Gershwin in Paris. Certainly the blue-note influences on Ravel in this work long have been recognized. What was heard more clearly, notably in the outer movements, was the neoclassicism of Stravinsky as well. This reading just didn't pass over the subtleties on the way to driving home that big American home run. It took its time around the bases, and they aren't all red, white and blue.
Moravec's spare reading of the second movement also was appreciated, especially since the orchestra followed suit. Rather than imposing an emotional direction on the long, musing pianist's soliloquy early on, the artist let it slowly and carefully unfold, creating something quite profound out of material typically offered up as pretty and, at most, contemplative.
The soloist is completely in the driver's seat in Franck's Symphonic Variations for Piano and Orchestra. Thus the opportunity to get to know Moravec was even greater.
This is an artist who speaks, musically, as a seasoned actor delivers a great speech by Shakespeare. There is honesty and almost a humility toward the composer in every line.
This is an artist who would not even use a virtuosic passage for easy emotional conquest. The quality of tone and of spirit are both pure. With Moravec, there are no cheap thrills.
Perhaps most wonderful and surprising about last night's reading of Franck was the middle section, in which Moravec and Siciliani dropped to such a slow tempo and such a soft volume that time was suspended.
Glinka's familiar Ruslan and Ludmilla Overture may never have been heard at such an incredible tempo as last night. This ebullient overture very effectively broke the ice - as well as the speed limit.
And Shostakovich completed the event, as if to demonstrate how far the Russian psyche had evolved (deteriorated?) in the years from Imperial to Soviet rule. The Symphony No. 9 is an enigmatic work of mercurial moods - stylistically, a kissing cousin to Prokofiev's Classical Symphony but, spiritually, decidedly Shostakovich. Do you think the boisterous finale really unloads all the weight of what comes before?
Kudos to the piccolo, bassoon and trombone.