Tonight, I enjoyed so many facets of the concert at the PSO, its hard to do them all justice. The works performed were all wonderful, and some were new to me, including Barber Symphony No. 1 and Mendelssohn Symphony No. 5 (actually he composed this symphony as the second in the sequence, but it was labeled as 5), both wonderful works in their own right, yet not played very often on the classical stations.
It was Gabriela Montero who stole the show. Her playing in the Rhapsody in Blue was a unique experience. The jazz and tempo were all her own. But the real treat was right after the Gershwin composition. Ms. Montero asked the audience what kind of improvisation she could do, what particular song, perhaps something from Pittsburgh, she could take and turn into an impromptu rendition for just this occasion. No need to wonder, the mass of the audience chanted 'Here we go', yes, the Steeler song (if you are not from Pittsburgh, realize that the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to the Super bowl next week). And there she went, playing a magnificent composition with the Steeler chant interwoven beautifully, some classical Baroque, and finally ending with a rhythmic mamba. The audience irrupted with the most sudden applause I have ever heard. I was a sight to behold, a sound never to be forgotten.
After intermission we were again surprised: Ms. Montero and three other PSO musicians formed a quartet and performed John Williams' "Air and Simple Gifts" which was originally played a few days ago at the presidential inauguration. It was a beautiful piece, obviously based on a theme of Copland.
Afterward, there was a post concert chat with Jim Cunningham and Ms. Montero.
Question: "What is your favorite piece to play"
Montero: "There are many, right now I'm really into concertos. I'm playing Rachmaninoff 3, that's one of my all time favorite pieces to play. I'm also playing Brahms No. 1 in Vienna, which I absolutely adore. I'm very fond of Brahms, Schumann, Bach, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff. Rachmaninoff I die, it's very romantic."