Sunday, November 25, 2012

Coyly trickling over the keys

Arriving early to Heinz Hall for a Grand Classics concert has its advantages. Two young gentlemen perform solo piano in the grand lobby before the show; their recital of various selections, like Grieg's 'Wedding Day at Troldhaugen', played by Jonah Berger, and Ernesto LeCuona's 'Malaguena' played by Nathan Pallotta, were truly amazing.

After the concert I spoke to Helen, a very friendly patron with a very cheerful disposition. Being another Pittsburgh Symphony subscriber who sits near me, we speak often. She told me that before each concert she goes to youtube and listens to some of the particular selections to be played that evening, in order to familiarize herself to the music and to get a feel for what's about to be played. I've done that myself, and since I blog, I find I do so even more so after the concert, to remind myself of what I've heard, and to give a degree of inspiration and recollection while I'm writing.

Tonight for the program, we are treated to Yefim Bronfman performing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5, "Emperor". Mr. Bronfman never missed a note, every inflection was perfect. Some of the softer sections of the 1st movement are uniquely 'heavenly' in their effect upon my being. For instance, about 6 minutes from the start the fingers on the keyboard do a mad rush from left to right, and spurred on by pizzicato and cellos in the background, slow down and begin a soft and gently flowing vibe, coyly trickling over the keys like a slowly meandering stream in the midst of a demure forest. This is followed by the strings transitioning again to the dramatic in a metamorphosis only Beethoven can fluidly achieve as if no alteration had occurred at all. It happens again at about 15 minutes into this selection.

I prefer the softer, more subtle sections when every key harmonic of the piano can be perceived. During the second movement, we here a much more prolonged and deliriously prescient melody rapturously rendering tones that evoke the following words to me:

There's a place for us,
a perfect space for us,
Where love grows,
my heart shows,
yet she knows,
where our blossom grows.

The transition from the second to third movement of this concerto shows Beethoven's more playful nature. He playfully hints at the sequence to follow, as if a practice or warm up, and then brings it forth in it's totality. This movement, like the first, shows the 'Allegro' full bodied feature of the piano and the orchestra as an amalgamation.

During the second half of the program, Manfred Honeck tells us: "Happy Thanksgiving, it's great to be back, from our fantastic tour of Europe." He introduced the 'Ice Skating' polka and led 4 of the PSO kids along the stage with their skates. Honeck: "What wonderful joy in peoples' faces; we'll catch up with the kids later.'

Mr. Honeck spent much time introducing 'On the Beautiful Blue Danube' which must have been a personal favorite of his: "This waltz is so perfectly Vienese, a romance, ideal for dancing" and spoke to to Jim Cunningham in the audience: "you will play it too? on WQED? I will call you."

I'm a big fan of the Austrian waltz program presented by the PSO every year. On the program this year are many selections with which I am not familiar. It's fortunate that Manfred Honeck and the PSO bring new material all the time. I particularly liked 'Eine Nacht in Venedig', 'Moulinet', 'Telefon-Polka' in which the actual cell-phones were ringing near the end, in true comedic form, and 'Unter Donner und Blitz' with umbrellas revealed, selections composed by Johann Strauss, Jr., Josef Strauss and Eduard Strauss.

Baritone Gregg Baker seemingly stole the second half of the show with his wonderful renditions of a few Franz Lehar songs, and 'Moon River' by Henry Mancini. However, it was his encore of 'Old Man River' that almost literally brought down the house with a standing ovation and thunderous applause. What a voice!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The hues and voice of 4 mystics, with lavish sound

On this clear and chilly Light-Up-Night in Pittsburgh, with the celebrated Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, freshly back from a triumphant tour of Europe, we anxiously partake of a different kind of fare, harmoniously set against the backdrop of Heinz Hall, a decor augmented with psychedelic colours gleaned from the Magical Mystery Tour and Sgt. Pepper's theme. And what a decor - indented pillars of purplish pink lights garishly garnish the otherwise traditional texture. Large speakers, left and right, greatly amplify the music, seemingly out of place for classical music, and indeed does not fit the symphonies delicately sonorous arrangement of individual sounds. The PSO began with a 'Beatles Overture' arranged by George Martin, the one individual who held The Beatles together like Semolina Pilchard. Yet when the band began to play, I knew the speakers were there for them specifically.

The tempo of some of the songs was slightly slower than prerecorded tracks I remember well from my youth. However I was amazed at the ability of these 4 individuals from America, Jim Owen as John Lennon, Tony Kishman as Paul McCartney, David John as George Harrison and Chris Camilleri as Ringo Starr, to adroitly mimic both the look (they were very good look-alikes for their respective characters) and the vocal sounds of the fab four. And their playing of the instruments was equally impressive. But most impressive of all were the incredibly beautiful vocals.

I've been a lifelong fan of The Beatles (I've got all their albums on LP), so it is without hesitation that I would attend this concert. And as a tribute to their unique style of word lyrics, I present my own rendition of one of their songs, with the theme of my attendance at the show, don't be late!

(sung to the music of 'Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite')

Juxtaposed with Light-Up-Night
We went to Heinz Hall tonight on histamine.
My friends and I will all be there
late of proper tennis fare, 40 love.
Over balls and rackets, nets and laurels
and lastly nothing gainsaid did transpire.
In this way nothing betrays our vitamin swirl.

The celebrated new fab four
performs their classical mystery tour at half past eight.
My friends and I will twist and shout
as Beatles faux will sing about - their cornflake.
Messrs. John and Paul enthrall their fans,
their resemblance will be second to none.
And of course the terrible towel is said once for all.

The band begins a show betwixt 
the hues and voice of 4 mystics, with lavish sound.
The PSO will undertake
ten groups of bars they perpetuate with great redound.
Having woken to the sounds of music
the Beatles tone is celebrated by all.
And tonight we come together on Strawberry Hill.