Gerstein performs Rach 3 with ISO

Pianist Kirill Gerstein

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

great concert?

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.

1954).  Written

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;

Hilbert Circle Theatre


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