Anna Petrova, Max Bragado-Darman & Thomas Yee
The Monterey Symphony under the direction of Max Bragado-Darman continued its 2013 portion of its current season last night at Sunset Center with a concert that featured a reduced orchestra, mostly of strings, although with some winds and percussion added for part of the program. Since it is always a pleasure to attend a concert and hear works that most of us have never heard in live performance previously, we welcomed an opportunity to hear Eduard Toldrá’s Vistes al mar (“Sea Views”) and Joaquin Turina’s La oración del torero, which complimented nicely the performances of Mozart’s Concerto No. 13 and Dvořák’s Serenade in E Major.
The opening work by Toldrá is well crafted for string orchestra and its first and last movements featured some lovely string writing that showed off the Monterey Symphony strings to their best advantage. Especially moving were the poignant and subdued slow movement’s softer sections where we heard expressive pianissimos and an effective coda, which included a brief, sweet solo by concert master Thomas Yee.
Our soloist for the evening, Bulgarian born pianist Anna Petrova, performed Mozart’s Concerto No. 13, K. 415, a work sometimes played a quatro with a string quartet, but on this occasion heard with string orchestra augmented by winds and percussion. Petrova, appearing for the first time as soloist with the Monterey Symphony, won the hearts of the audience with a sparkling performance of the outer movements and charmed us with her sweet playing of the aria-like second movement. There was a lot of vitality in her crisp playing, and she made the most of Mozart’s surprising excursions into unexpected tonalities and moments of Sturm und Drang. It was in the final Rondo movement that she made her strongest impression, for it was Mozart at his best, bringing out in Petrova an impetuous excitement that stirred the audience to its feet at its conclusion. Responding to the prolonged applause, Maestro Max gestured for her to return to the piano for an encore. Petrova announced from the stage that she would play a short encore by György Ligeti, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (der Zauberlehrling), from his Etudes, Book 2. It was all too brief, but it showed off another aspect of her refined keyboard mastery.
After intermission we heard Joaquin Turina’s La oración del torero (“The Bullfighter’s Prayer”), and it turned out to be a stunning piece featuring shimmering strings and lovely Catalan melodies with a hint of Flamenco. The ending of this piece was amazing, as Maestro Max led the strings in a prolonged and gradual decrescendo that seemed to go on forever. I don’t know about the rest of the audience, but I was holding my breath and enjoying the last possible moment when the sound finally disappeared. Few orchestra string sections are capable of this kind of magic.
Rounding off the evening was a performance of Dvořák’s Serenade in E Major, a wonderful example of Dvorak’s melodic gifts and splendid Romantic imagination, which is present, from beginning to end throughout these five movements. The Tempo di Valse second movement was especially charming and the windup of the last movement was exhilirating