"Brilliant" so aptly describes Friday evening's seventh ISO

classical program and second Russian Festival program that I may end up using

the term more than once. 

 Two standards of the

repertoire comprised the concert: Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3 in C, Op. 26 and Tchaikovsky's

Symphony No. 5 in E

Minor, Op. 64.  The

podium guest was brilliant young Han-Na Chang, 32, from S. Korea;

the keyboard guest was brilliant young Vadym Kholodenko, 29, the Gold Medalist of

the 2013 Van Cliburn Competition from Kiev, Ukraine.  Though brilliant

(as I said) describes this concert from start to finish, it lacked the

near-perfection of the preceding Friday's first Russian program.

Spectacular is an adjective I could apply to Kholodenko's

keyboard prowess.  This

best of the Russian-Soviet composer's five piano concertos is  filled with nostalgic whimsy (or just possibly

whimsical nostalgia), and sparkles with all the brilliance of which Prokofiev

was capable.  Kholodenko

displayed just the right tempo with the right nuances, a perfect touch with

optimum pedaling and a self-assurance of his resources

such that we knew that he knew he was in complete command and control.   

With Chang using graceful, even balletic baton motions, she

easily held her end of the bargain.   This

was the best Prokofiev Third I've ever witnessed--by itself a five-star

performance.  Kholodenko

returned for an encore, the Ground in C Minor by English Baroque composer Henry

Purcell (1659-1695).  I

did not know it; he did not announce it--and thus I had to ask.  It sounded like a later arrangement as

our artist played near the bottom of the piano's compass--below that of a


Though Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony is generally rated below

his Fourth and his Sixth, I'd incline toward favoring only the sixth above the

preceding two.  The

Fifth is dominated by its "fate" or "providence" motive being heard in one

guise or another (major or minor key) in each of its four movements.  David Bellman's

clarinet opens with it, till it's shunted aside in favor of a march motive, the

first movement's signature. 

It's picked up again only at the symphony's end, perhaps for the

composer to show us that he wasn't perpetually stuck with the providence


Chang began the work showing absolute control over her

standard Romantic orchestra (absent the bass drum).  In the first movement's Allegro con

anima section, her control of her players' "animation" was remarkable--exciting

even.  Then ISO

principal Robert Danforth's horn solo, opening the slow movement (Andante

cantabile), introduced us with perfection to another memorable Tchaikovsky

theme, leading to yet a counter theme, the two playing over the movement with

two harsh interruptions by the providence motive: It was nicely put together.  And so it went with

the Waltz movement which followed--Tchaikovsky at his balletic best, but ending

with a glum statement of providence, again.

Somewhere, possibly in the fourth movement, Chang lost her

baton; I didn't see it but heard about it afterward from patrons as we were

exiting.  When

transitioning from the Finale's Andante maestoso to the Allegro vivace section,

Chang momentarily lost control of her players.  There was a total cacophony of sound.

Then, remarkably, our forces just as quickly coalesced again, and with Chang's

racing tempo, they were hanging on for dear life. With the excitement came a fear

of their unraveling again, but they didn't.  Chang would have been better served

with a slightly reduced tempo--in this section only.  Otherwise her conducting was . . .

brilliant. Jan. 30; Hilbert Circle