Monday, March 14, 2016

Tour de Force

Friday's concert with the Calgary Philharmonic involved another Beethoven Piano Concerto, his second, (boy, I'm getting spoiled) and some Rachmaninoff.  Two great orchestrators performed by a wonderful symphony.  I had heard in the pre-concert talk that the CPO was fast becoming one of the great performers of Beethoven in Canada and it really did show.   I'm hesitant to compare the contrast the CPO with the Edmonton Symphony after seeing two back-to-back Beethoven works.  I'm actually much more familiar with the Piano Concerto 4 than the number 2 and they are very different from each other (in my mind at least).  Having said that though I felt that both were performed much the way I always imagined they should be.  The number 4 has a bit more power and intensity to it but then, it IS a later work.  As far as the second concerto goes, I'm best familiar with the last movement and hearing the CPO play it was an absolute joy.

The second half of the program was given over to Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances.  Like Beethoven, Rachmaninoff was an amazing orchestrator. (If I had to add a third person to create a triumvirate, I would most likely pick Berlioz).  This work was a definite "tour de force"....big orchestra, 5 percussionists, and instruments such as the harp, bass clarinet, english horn (which was actually French) and contrabassoon, that don't often make an appearance on stage.  The first movement even featured a saxophone solo.  While very avant garde for its time (it's premiere received a very negative reception), the piece is actually based in part on a very old medieval plainchant Mass for the Dead, the "Dies irae".  This is a piece that would definitely fit in well on a Hallowe'en night.

Jack Singer Concert Hall, a true gem of a concert venue.

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