Saturday, March 07, 2009
New Century Chamber Orchestra Goes Russian
The Google search bar for this blog in the top left hand corner can be invaluable. I remembered going to a concert where Shostakovich's First Piano Concerto had been played, and that it was an astonishingly fun performance but I didn't remember who had actually played it. The performers turned out to be Yefim Bronfman at the piano with Mstislav Rostropovich conducting the San Francisco Symphony, and unfortunately it was one of those performances that was so good that anybody else's version probably wasn't going to stand a chance in my memory (click here). This turned out to be the case when I heard the New Century Chamber Orchestra perform it on Thursday evening at Herbst Theatre, so I'm having my friend Charlie Lichtman give a report because he didn't know the piece and wasn't unforgivably prejudiced. Take it away, Charlie:
The program began with 16 of the 20 "Visions Fugitives" (1915-1917) by Prokofiev in a piano and string orchestra arrangement by Barshai. The short "art-songs-without-words" sounded more French Impressionist than Russian, with a hint of Bartok's subsequent "night music." It was led by Music Director and Concertmaster Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg (above right), and featured her partner, Ann-Marie McDermott (above left), on the piano.
The orchestra moved directly into the the Shostakovich Piano Concerto (1933) without a pause, which seemed a questionable approach. Ms. McDermott aptly handled the keyboard pyrotechnics, and Adam Luftman, principal trumpet in the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, played with enthusiasm and deft accuracy. Both reflective and energetic, the concerto moved nicely through the four movements.
After the intermission, the program concluded with Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence (1890) for string orchestra. The three movement piece, which was decidedly and ardently romantic, delighted the audience, some of whom felt it necessary to applaud inappropriately at the end of each movement. The orchestra was very "together," moving as a unit through the many mood swings, and the second movement pizzicatos were especially tight, and a real pleasure to hear.