ISO Classical Series Program No. 14 

As a conductor, Andrew Litton is hard to upstage. As a talker (heard in the pre-concert Words on Music), he's difficult to stop. But veteran pianist André Watts merely had to appear before a sold-out Circle Theatre (both Friday and Saturday) to put Litton in the shade. Watts demonstrated how pianistic maturity enhances an old chestnut, the ever-familiar Rach 2 - Rachmaninoff's 2nd Piano Concerto in C Minor, Op. 18, replete with tunes everybody knows. He caressed those melodies, backed by decades of experience, coupled with virtuosity - only when called for - and top-flight artistry. Watts' taking a deliberate tempo throughout the concerto's three movements seemed to highlight their intrinsic value over merely sailing through them, as we typically hear. Despite his being upstaged in the Rachmaninoff, Litton brought our players up to a high level of excellence in the concerto as well as the brief opener, Mikhail Glinka's Overture to Russlan and Ludmilla and the overblown Shostakovich Symphony No. 10 in E Minor. Op. 93 (1953). The symphony was the second ponderous one to show the composer's obsession with Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin - the first being the terrible No. 4 from 1936, when fear defined Shostakovich's obsession. His No. 10, a more mature work, is merely tiresome, with a few exceptional intervals here and there. Precision and ensemble clarity marked all three works

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