[this was going to be three parts: conductor, soloist, and symphony, but I found it easier to construct one long post, as opposed to 3 shorter more disjointed ones]
2 weeks ago I lamented at the lack-luster performance that Michael Christie and the Phoenix Symphony put on during the John Adam Debacle / Beethoveen season opener. So it was with a degree of skepticism and minor trepidation that I agreed to go with Dr Desert Flower to the Saturday September 26th performance of Carlos Chávez / Sergei Prokofiev / Antonín Dvořák. I even filled a flask with some bas Armagnac in my jacket pocket, just in case. This time we had 2-for-1 tickets, front row, 2nd section, middle of the concert hall, acoustically perfect, surrounded by skeptical, vocal baby boomers who made no shortage of disparaging comments about the ages of the evening's conductor (28) and soloist (22).
Then the concert began. Wow! I was pleased and impressed to see Ms. Alondra de la Parra on the podium, passionately conducting her fellow countryman's Sinfonia India, that the Symphony stepped up and delivered a remarkable performance. Fantástico! Several times in this widely varied & dynamic work, de la Parra leapt off the podium a few inches in aggressive attacks - Edvard Tchivzhel style! Again, with a talented conductor to inspire them, more than the concertmaster and principals put their hearts into it. The audience joined me in a powerful round of applause, but things were just getting started.
Stage hands quickly moved the Steinway & Sons grand piano to center stage, at an angle that gave Dr. Desert Flower and I a perfect view of both the orchestra and the entire keyboard. My fellow country man Adam Golka sat down to demonstrate his mastery of Prokofiev's extremely difficult Concerto No.2 in G minor for Piano & Orchestra, Op 16 from 1924. The program described how Prokofiev had conceived his Concerto as "brash and angular" & "harshly modern" - that was an understatement. Golka attacked the keyboard with passion and precision, giving a spectacular performance that drove the audience to it's feet for a triple standing ovation. Doskonale wspaniały!! Then, Golka sat back down, to do an encore of a fellow Pole's beautiful piano work, one of Chopin's Nocturnes. One more negative Arizona reviewer stated it was the F-sharp, Op. 15, No. 2, but I thought it was the longer D Flat Major, Op 27 No.2 Nocturne. I distinctly remember Golka ended it on higher pitched notes, perhaps he flawlessly merged both Nocturnes into a melodic hybrid. I could be completely wrong. I was literally on the edge of my seat, partially leaning over the aisle adjacent railing, giddy, with a tear in my eye. Completely euphoric. Listening to Chopin on CD this afternoon in the background (Op 27 No.2 is my all time favorite) I cannot stop broadly smiling as I fondly reminisce about this breath taking performance. I was deeply, sincerely touched.
Returning from intermission, the piano was removed, enabling an unobstructed view of the podium and stage. The Dvořák Symphony No.8 in G major, op.88, lead by de la Parra, was excellent. She made the symphony sing, from their hearts. I heard violas and cellos where voices had previously been muted and meek. The woodwinds stepped up and played to the level of concertmaster's Steven Moeckell's first violins. Occasionally, I even noticed the 2nd violins playing FF enthusiastically. The brass voices rang out clearly - I'd say "clarion", but technically that has a shrill negative connotation in the most literal sense - speaking up succinctly and melodically when de la Parra called upon (and inspired!) them, is a better way to put it.
All in all, this was the best concert performance I've experienced in Arizona, on par with the Greenville Symphony Orchestra's magnificent presentation of Holst's The Planets in 2006, and better than last season's Mahler which we both really liked. 7 more classical concerts to go here in Phoenix this season... I hope they haven't hit an unrepeatable apex. Armagnac will be on standby, just in case.
1 year ago