Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pure, powerful, arts

I have wondered what musicians think when they’re told they have a performance in Las Vegas on their tour: "Las Vegas? Seriously? Do they even have an orchestra there?" Most Las Vegans aren't aware of our town's humble Philharmonic either, and with good reason- it used to suck. A few years ago I went to a performance so unimpressive, painful even, that I vowed never to return. It wasn’t until I moved back from New York, where concerts abound, that I found myself desperately craving live classical music and decided to break my own vow. During my absence a remarkable change had taken place- there was a new conductor, one who knew what he wanted and was willing to replace the entire orchestra in order to get it. Three years ago David Itkins took over as conductor and has since made a musical ensemble out of something that called itself a philharmonic but sounded like a hot mess. The cacophony of noise that once was the Las Vegas Philharmonic is now a functioning, notable, respectable group of musicians under the guidance of Maestro Itkins.
Tonight’s performance was the perfect season opener. On the program were Sibelius’s Finlandia, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, and Beethoven’s 7th Symphony. What a rich line-up; the heavy brass of Finlandia juxtaposed with the feathery strings of Tchaikovsky, finishing with Beethoven’s unsurpassed Symphony in A- an impressive concert indeed.
Giora Schmidt, a very young and very accomplished musician, was tonight’s soloist. The Violin Concerto in D by Tchaikovsky is one of the most often played violin concertos, thereby making it one of the most difficult to execute- the performer must find a way to make his version stand out without taking away from the composer’s ideas. Mr. Schmidt did just that. His performance was full of voice and life, lacking in flaws. During the cadenza he played a game with the audience, teasing us with his phrasing and delighting us with his mischievousness. At the end of the first movement he received a standing ovation (normally applause is contained until the end of the piece) to which he responded, “Does this mean I can go home?” Oh how the audience roared with laughter. The following two movements and his encore were spectacular, nothing less, and a real treat after a long summer without music.
As for the Beethoven, the harmonies during the fourth movement were fantastic, strong and deep in the brass with the strings holding a solid bass. Nevertheless, as a whole the orchestra seems to hesitate rather than blend. This, with the overall coarseness of the players, weakens their musical integrity; however, they play in tune, and they play well. Hopefully with time they will fine tune any set backs and command a larger audience.


Ron said...

Good to read Vegas has come of age in the classical music world.

Carol said...

Marianne can really light up an event, can't she! Ron and I need to get out more and enjoy some of this type of music.