Review by Danny Gaisin; Dedicated to the late Rona Bond (Goodis)
Over a period of 54 years and about 2 million published words; I have never dedicated a column, but this Brott Festival concert was so evocative that it necessitated such. I was that truly fortunate of ‘only-child-category’; I had an almost-sister who was my most important friend. ‘Ronnie’ was one of those individuals that impacted everyone she met; and coincidently; the NAO selected three of her six favorite classical compositions as its program. So, I reminisced and even had to dry some wetted eyes.
Sergei Rachmaninoff was a troubled soul who even contemplated an injudicious act. Providentially he forwent its implementation. Two of his works were exquisitely performed by Ian Parker as guest soloist. The celebrated 2nd piano concerto was enacted with intense concentration and deliberation by Parker, ably abetted by the NAO musicians. The adagio 2nd movement was played with a sensuality that seemed as if expressing the essence of both the composition and the composer himself. The familiar pauses that precede the intricate motifs deliberated by the piano then reiterated by the orchestra were dramatic and effective. The allegro/scherzando 3rd with its metronomic introduction that leads to the vocal theme made popular 4 decades later was given distinctiveness by Parker’s slightly exaggerated pace and unique embellishments. The finale was read with triumphant flourishes. Tears: –episode no. 1
The composer’s ‘Variations on a theme by Paganini’ was created in A-minor and at least 25% of the 24 dissimilarities have stand-alone abilities. The 18th (famous as a Minnelli/Reinhardt cruise-movie leitmotif) andante cantabile is reversed to D-major and performed 1st by the piano then reprised by the orchestra. Touchingly emotional… Tears: – episode no. 2.
The 20th and especially the challenging 24th were given a dramatically intense reading yet lost none of the intrinsic melody the composer instilled. Parker is a consummate performer; technician; and interpreter.
The major work was Ravel’s rendering of Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’. Alas, Brott’s 2009 NAO presentation of ‘Pictures’ with original local creations interpreting the artwork being viewed; has become my benchmark for this particular work. (O.A.R. TOP TEN ’09). Under the baton of apprentice Ben Kepes, the piece got off with a rocky start due to an obvious trumpet ‘OOPS’ that was quite noticeable. The conductor was deliberate, meticulous and totally self-assured. His eye contact between podium and guest concertmaster Stephen Sitarski of the HPO, no doubt gave the musicians the almost relaxed atmosphere needed for such a work. It offers so many individual solo opportunities; almost like “Bolero” (another Ronnie favorite). Sitarski is an absolute professional and is an adviser and supporter to every other musician, especially when he is in the 1st chair.
The Brott Organization commissioned a new piece that was premiered as the opening work of the concert…”FESTIVAL OVERTURE” by Vania Angelova. The piece is delightful, enchanting, melodic and way too short. The opus and the composer both received deserved applause. The Festival season ends with “Rite of Spring” on Aug. 14th.