"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
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
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 Theatre