Monday, May 16, 2011

The movie glutton goes back to the symphony

Elliot and I went to the symphony a few weeks ago with a voucher we got at the symphony open house during the Main Street Arts Festival.  Elliot loved it!  So I inquired with his music teacher whether she could get another voucher for us.  She came through with two, so Elliot invited his friend, a talented pianist.  I don't know how much that little boy knows about the piano, but we all got the opportunity to hear one of the greatest pianists around.

Barry Douglas has played for Fort Worth audiences before; he won the bronze in the 1985 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.  The next year, he won the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition, the first non-Russian to do so since Van Cliburn himself.  With this performance, I was about ready to give him another medal.

A college friend of mine, an accomplished pianist, told me about a time when, as a little girl, she was riding in the car with her mom.  As they listened to the classical radio station together, she started crying.  When her mom asked what was wrong, she said she was crying because the music was so beautiful.  I have never had an experience quite like that, but I came closer than I ever have at this concert.  Although I have heard Tchaikovsky's familiar Piano Concerto No. 1 before, when Douglas and the orchestra started playing, a wave of emotion washed over me; I felt like I was going to start weeping.  I calmed down after a few measures, but my sensitivity to the music was heightened and I floated through the rest of the piece.  Beautiful, powerful, emotional, awesome.  Douglas's brilliant playing accompanied by the FWSO's usual great performance made for one of the most memorable pieces of live music I've ever heard.

By the way, this happens to be the same piece Van Cliburn played to win the Tchaikovsky competition in 1958.  Here is a 1962 performance:

Some concertgoers left at intermission, perhaps thinking that nothing could top the first half of the night's program.  Elliot, his friend and I stuck around and were not disappointed.  The second piece of the night was Titanic, by FWSO's composer in residence.  At first I thought, What is this, pops night with movie themes?  But Boyer's piece predates the over-hyped movie by 2 years.  Before the orchestra began, Boyer himself stood up and walked the audience through a description of the piece.  What a unique opportunity, to hear from the composer himself.  In a tribute to the musicians who continued to play while the lifeboats were being loaded, he worked in songs the ship's band played, weaving those melodies together with sounds evoking the crash on the iceberg and sinking of the ship.  It was quite effective and evocative.

The final selection of the night has been a favorite of mine for years.  If I remember correctly, the first CD I ever bought was Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring.  As expected, the FWSO performance was extraordinary.  I love the power and challenge of this piece.  Coincidentally, a couple weeks ago I watched the movie Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky, which opens with the premier of The Rite of Spring.  As you may recall, the audience reaction got out of hand, with shouting and arguments, so much so that the police were called in.  I played that portion of the movie for Elliot and insisted that he not behave like that at the concert!  The program notes at the concert included an account that premier; the movie seems to have gotten the details right.  No riots ensued on this night.

All in all, I have to agree with the Star-Telegram reviewer (here), who said that this "was, arguably, the best performance that this writer has ever heard them deliver."

No comments: