Monday, May 7, 2012

Symphony Hamilton Piano Celebration

This concert, in the afternoon of Sunday, May 6, was presented to introduce the Burlington Performing Art Centre's new Kawai grand piano. It was played in two of the three works performed.

Andrea Battista was the chair of the Keys to the Future campaign to raise the money to acquire the piano for the BPAC. She usually plays second violin in the Symphony on the Bay, previously Symphony Hamilton. Today she was the soloist, not on the violin, but on the very instrument for which she spearheaded the funding.

She and the strings of the orchestra, conducted by Pratik Gandhi, played J.S. Bach's Third Concerto in D major.

Battista played very well indeed. Much of the familiar music of Bach is religious but, in this performance, I was reminded that Bach was also an extraordinary court composer. This was a truly moving performance of a sublime piece, portraying the shadings and moods Bach incorporated into this work which he surely composed to present himself as soloist.

Valerie Tryon next played the Lizst Eb Major Concerto, with the orchestra conducted by Maestro James McKay. I've no idea how often Tryon has played this piece but it must be into the dozens of performances. She wears the piece like a glove, tossing off Lizst's piano pyrotechnics by the handful.  Music of the Romantic piano masters is her specialty and it surely showed.

Once the brasses got past a squelched opening chord, the concerto unfolded as the composer intended, much to the delight of the audience.

In the second half, the orchestra played the Rachmaninov Second Symphony. I'll admit, at the outset, to having misgivings about Rachmaninov's orchestral music.

In the two very popular piano concertos (#2 and #3) of which I am personally very fond, the percussive qualities of the solo instrument, which plays most of the time, contribute clarity and rhythmic impetus. In the orchestral music this is missing. The textures are frequently thickly contrapuntal. For great stretches, the overall effect can be muddy and the development of the thematic material seems to lack definition. None of this is the fault of the performers or conductor.

In fact the orchestra's rendition of the piece was acceptably accurate and suitably Romantic. Kudos to principal clarinetist Zoltan Kalman and Concert Master Corey Gemmell, and to the horn section who rose to the occasion in their featured passages.

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