Saturday Night at the Symphony

Last Saturday night I went to the Symphony. The program was another in their Russian Festival. The big draw, to me, rather than the program was the conductor. Leonard Slatkin had been the conductor here years ago and this was, I believe, his first visit back to conduct the orchestra.

The first number on the program was by Arvo Part who is Estonian. This was a rather strange composition for strings and two members from the percussion section. It was interesting but I’m glad it only lasted 10 minutes.

Next we had Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsoday on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43. The soloist was Olga Kern. What a dynamic pianist! She played with power in the sections that called for power. The lyrical sections sang. Her fingers flew across the keyboard in other sections. The pre-concert lecture mentioned how fast she played the fast sections. I don’t know how she could move her fingers that fast.

Olga had to take three or four bows. She finally sat down and played a short encore. Two more bows were called for at that point.

The second half of the program was Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, op. 100. Slatkin “owns” this symphony and conducts it with assurance. In fact, he recorded it with this orchestra back in 1984 on the RCA label. That recording won a Grammy in the classical section of the awards. I don’t know if any of the current orchestra members played on that recording but they did a fine job playing it Saturday night.

Multiple bows were called for from the audience. Finally, Slatkin lead the orchestra in an arrangement his father did. His father had been an assistant concertmaster of this orchestra so the connection between the Slatkin family and the orchestra goes back a long way.

It was a most enjoyable evening.

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