The Impossible Concertos

Before last night’s symphony concert, we listened to another Tchaikovsky concerto number one, this one for piano. I was reading through the liner notes and telling the women it was first considered “unplayable.” Over the past five years, I’ve grown to like Tchaikovsky. I like his ability to write for the orchestra. I rearranged a piano reduction of the Arabian Dance from the Nutcracker Suite for cello, clarinet, violin for my church ensemble a few years ago. And the concertos are simply amazing.

I don’t have a recording of the first violin concerto, which, according to the concert notes, was also considered “unplayable.” That one was on the menu last night at the Lyric Theater. Kanako Ito gave up her concertmistress chair to play the lead and it was a stirring and highly emotional performance, and a very unusual one.

Many of her students from Park University’s Youth Conservatory were in the audience. Some had no idea about classical concert etiquette, so a few things happened I’ve never seen before. About halfway through the first movement, after one of the first super-virtuoso passages, applause broke out for a few seconds from the other end of the balcony. About a minute later, the same thing happened on our side. And then it happened a third time. The shushing got louder each time. I think many veteran concertgoers were dismayed about it.

I put on my jazz hat for a moment and I thought, sure, why not? This makes sense. ‘Course, I didn’t do it. But I smiled because I could understand what was going on for some of the kids in the audience.

Then she got a standing ovation … after the first movement. Priceless. The crowd response at the real end of the concerto was warmer and more sustained than for Joshua Bell a few weeks ago. And that’s a good thing. Michael Stern has really kicked it up a few notches with the KCSO these past few years. People seemed thrilled that “one of our own” was on the concert bill as a featured performer.

Local reviewer Paul Horsley commented about the recently announced upcoming 2008-09 season: fewer big names on the playbill with the orchestra. I have to say I don’t care. I liked Barber’s suite from Medea. It showed off many symphony musicians. I like orchestral music and I don’t attend concerts for the big names getting brought in.

In the chat before the performance, Michael Stern said programming the evening was sort of like inviting Clive Barker and Stephen King to a Valentine’s concert. Lots of love, passion, and emotion, but with some very scary twists.

Loved every minute of it.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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