The final concert of the Charlottesville Symphony’s 2018-19 season started slowly and finished in triumph. It was quite a journey.
The Saturday, April 24th concerto opened with Wagner’s Prelude from “Parsifal.” This is a quiet, introspective work that uses silence as an important element. The orchestra played beautifully, achieving a shimmering quality in some passages.
Pianist Alexandra Beliakovich joined the ensemble for Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor. To me, the opening movement seemed somewhat underpowered. The strings had intonation problems, and more than a few imprecise entrances.
Beliakovich’s superb played of the cadenza won the audience over. When the movement ended, they spontaneously burst into applause. From that point, the work caught fire. Beliakovich played the second movement with a delicate lyrism of exceptional beauty.
And the finale had the energy and excitement I wished the work had started with. It was big, bold, and bouncy. The audience demanded three curtain calls. Beliakovich obliged with an unusual encore – Scriabin’s Nocturne for Left Hand Only, Op. 9, No. 2.
In a way, I guess Beliakovich proved she could play the piano with one hand tied behind her back (or at least in her lap). She could — and very well, too.
Judith Shatin’s Piping the Earth opened the second half of the concert. This nine-minute work is quite challenging. It opens with fragments of melody gradually coalescing into a single motif. Over the course of the work, motifs flit about the orchestra, tossed from section to section.
The strings redeemed themselves. They — and the rest of the orchestra — played with disciplined precision. And it worked. It was one of the best performances I’ve heard of this piece.
The orchestra moved from strength to strength. Respighi’s “The Pines of Rome” is an orchestral showpiece, and the Charlottesville Symphony had something to show. The opening movement sparkled and shone. The offstage brass was exceptional as were the lower strings in the second movement. And the finale brought it all home. It was an exciting end not just to the evening, but to the season.
Charlottesville Symphony at the University of Virginia
Benjamin Rous, Music Director
Alexandra Beliakovich, piano
April 27, 28, 2019
Richard Wagner: Prelude from “Parsifal”
Robert Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54
Judith Shatin: Piping the Earth
Ottorino Respighi: Pini di Roma