For those who braved the rainy weather on Saturday, December 8, the concert at the California Theatre in San Jose by Symphony Silicon Valley with Pietro Rizzi conducting proved most auspicious. Assisted by Armenian piano virtuoso Nareh Arghamanyan in the Piano Concerto in D-flat Major by Aram Khachaturian, all participants generated a colossal excitement in the course of this percussive, nationalist testament to the spirit of the Caucasus. Complementing the vivid colors of the 1936 Khachaturian Concerto, we had Rizzi’s conducting works by Glinka and Brahms that demonstrated a refined and sensitive approach to familiar staples that had the power to sound refreshed in their easy panache and suave execution.
As the air turns crisp and the leaves rustle as they fall to the sidewalk, I tend to notice music around me more often. Hardly a minute goes by in public that music is not offered for your listening pleasure. Our ears are full. Modern music from the 20th and 21st Century is challenging at times. Modern life is challenging at times. This listener does not begrudge a Classical Music fan for taking a “bye” on a concert when life has just been too challenging. Life happens. Music happens. Sometimes one just wants the music to speak to one’s heart. No brain stretching harmonies, no new instruments, no clash of instrumental techniques; just music to stir the ear and the mind and of course, the heart. No in-depth conversations of differences, just the chance to hear old friends. When the promotional Press Release mentions that a group “is pushing the boundaries of classical music” one may need to pause and reframe your ears and mind before entering the concert hall. This listener has often been in that “just give me easy listening” frame of mind. Last night, I was ready for some new experiences; a concert of all modern stuff.
A lovely fall afternoon befitting Sacred Words welcomed all to the Church In The Forest. Under the direction of Dr. Sean Boulware, the women of Aria continue their vocal excellence. So many of the afternoon’s pieces carried a messages that endure through the ages. Even with contemporary settings, words from thousands of years ago from diverse sacred texts are strikingly comforting in today’s world. As Boulware described, these texts are important in many faith journeys as anchor, comfort, and strength.
Words from Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist, interspersed with Psalm 21, were the basis for the Joan Szymko setting, “I Lift My Eyes.” This was a most appropriate lead in to “Gate Gate” which is a Sanskrit text. “Gate” means gone – as in from suffering, from forgetfulness to mindfulness, as in to the other side. Fragments of Sufi Rumi poetry were the inspiration for “Where Your Bare Foot Walks.” This romantic work was written for David Childs’ bride as an emotional present of love.
A modest but well-pleased audience hailed pianist Changyong Shin as he concluded his Sunday, November 17 recital for Steinway Society – The Bay Area at the Independence High School auditorium in San Jose. Responding with one encore, Chopin’s Grande valse brillante in E-flat Major, Op. 18, rendered flawlessly, Shin more than confirmed his prowess in music that demands audacity, dexterity, and poetry by such diverse personalities as Beethoven, Chopin, Ravel, and Granados. Shin seems to embody that “smart performer of smart music,” to paraphrase Ned Rorem — that musician whose mind proves as agile as his gifted fingers. The two large works on the program, Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 30 in E Major, Op. 109, and Ravel’s daunting Gaspard de la nuit, each required the careful balance of deft articulation and intellectual acumen to bring off manifestation of power and lyric intimacy at the same time.
Last night at Sunset Center conductor Max Bragado-Darman and the Monterey Symphony presented its second concert of the 2019-2020 season, and it was quite an unusual program. It featured Korean pianist Kun Woo Paik performing two concertos — Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat major, K. 595 and Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 15 in D Minor. Very rarely does a symphonic program contain no other works but a pair of piano concertos, and thereby hangs a tale.