On Friday, the ISO's third classical program of the season
did not a great concert make. A slightly reduced audience from
those attending the first two concerts came for two repertoire warhorses:
Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 in
D Minor, Op. 30, (Rach 3) with Russian guest pianist Kirill Gerstein, and
Sibelius's Symphony No. 2 in
D, Op. 43, the program conducted by another Russian, Andrey Boreyko. Why wasn't it a
Several factors contributed to Friday evening's dropping
below par. Despite
the fact that Gerstein gave us dazzling passage work, beautifully articulated and
with minimum pedaling, as in the waltz-like section of Rachmaninoff's slow
movement, he made striking sfortzandos of his leading thematic notes while
covering its support material underneath. They simply banged; they were steely. Here more pedaling
may have helped. He
tended to rush passages sufficiently to make a few unnecessary slips.
Using the so-called "more difficult" first-movement cadenza
(of the two the composer supplied), his excessively loud chords tended to cover
everything else. Gerstein
has top-tier technique, but he made poor interpretive choices. Plus Boreyko's orchestra, though staying well
with the soloist, gave us too much ragged playing. Horacio Gutièrrez provided the definitive local performance of Rach 3 with ISO conductor
laureate (then music director) Raymond Leppard in the 1998-99 season.
Of Jean Sibelius's
seven symphonies, the Finnish composer's No. 2 is the most popular, though
"music people" rate No. 4 and No. 7 as the best, musically. Though an engaging, post-Romantic
work, it tends to overdo its thematic material in its second and fourth
movements, making both seem unduly long. But for the ISO, the first movement
seemed the most problematic.
The movement's upward cascading motifs came across raggedly,
a miasma of ill-defined sound. From the very extended cello pizzicati opening
the second movement on, our players came together better, but throughout the
work, they were never quintessentially precise. This made the broad, victorious D
major theme and its D minor countersubject more tiresome with their excessive
repetition than if they had been more precisely executed.
The program opened with a 12-minute contemporary piece, King Tide (1999), by Anders Hillborg (b.
to depict a "very high tide," it started with the upper strings playing and
holding a low-register cacophony of notes in a sort of continuing tremolo, and
slowly shifting upward while getting louder. The winds and brass entered, our forces
reaching a climactic point before easing back into calm repose. Yes, it could
depict a tide so long as one were properly cued ahead of time. But was it music? It had no melody or rhythm -- you be the judge. Oct. 17;