Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra – ‘Power + Passion’ – Conductor James Gaffigan Delivers Both

Bomsori, Guest Violinist; Orchestra Give Powerful Performances

By George B. Parous

Heinz Hall resonated with beautiful music last evening, when the first of three performances of the Power + Passion program was given to an enthusiastic audience. James Gaffigan was again at the conductor’s desk, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra gave of its best, and the guest violinist, Bomsori, gave a marvelous account of herself in the music of Tchaikovsky. Once again, the orchestra floor had unoccupied rows of seats, but there were sufficient people there and in the galleries to give the concert the roaring ovation it received.

The first part of the program consisted of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551, “Jupiter.  The last of his symphonies, it’s long been critically acclaimed as one of the finest symphonies in the realm of classical music. It deserves its reputation, and Gaffigan and the PSO last evening gave a demonstration as to why. The symphony was composed during the last, troubled years of Mozart’s life, and it’s not known for certain if he ever heard this symphony performed. Mozart was not known to compose for the fun of it; he composed for commissions. But musical historians have found no record of this last great work being commissioned by anyone. It’s possible that Mozart hoped to sell the symphony, as his money was scarce at the time he composed it (1788)

It’s the longest and most challenging of Mozart’s symphonies. The opening movement (Allegro vivace) is in sonata form. The second movement (Andante cantabile) is a lyrical assortment of themes, in major and minor keys. Although brightly spirited at times, the work in the main carries a serious atmosphere, mostly in the first and fourth (Molto allegro) movements. The third movement (Menuetto Allegretto) is a minuet, and the fourth, final movement, again in sonata form, is bold, including a fugal coda that is a feature of the work. Gaffigan guided the orchestra through it all in fine form, and the orchestra’s response was an excellent one, as can usually be taken for granted. The crowd seemed to be one of the hard-core music-lovers, for again there was silence between the movements, and a rousing ovation when the symphony came to an end.

The second part opened with Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s magnificent Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major, Op. 35, and the violin soloist everyone was eager to hear. The single named Bomsori, who was roundly applauded when she entered in a glistening gown of silver, played with a skill and technique that almost defies description. Her entrance, as she introduced the first movement’s melody – one of Tchaikovsky’s most exquisitely lovely themes, she played in a manner that commanded the audience’s attention immediately. Tchaikovsky has written music for the soloist in which the piece accelerates and makes more demands on the soloist as the movement progresses, and Bomsori and the orchestra were fully up to the wonderful concerto’s heroic demands and delivered a first-class performance under Gaffigan’s guidance. The finale brought a storm of applause and enough recalls for Bomsori that she caved to the inevitable and played a light, lovely encore.

Curiously, Maurice Ravel’s beautiful and brief La Valse (Poème choréographique)  (choreographic poem), was tacked on to close the program. It’s certainly a showstopper, and overwhelmingly grand in its way, but its program spot, and the way in which Mr. Gaffigan took the whole piece almost at an almost double-forte, so that the climaxes bordered on anti-climactic cacophony, made it a curiosity. Gaffigan most definitely got the audience response he was hoping for, but as for the artistic and musical value of the work, as played last night, there was room for pause.

Fortunately, the post-concert offering returned last night. Unfortunately, we were unable to stay behind to hear it. They are always thoughtfully arranged mini programs played exquisitely and none in the future will be missed.

The program will be repeated at Heinz Hall – this evening at 7:30, and Sunday afternoon at 2:30. Do yourself a favor and don’t let this one slip by. Tickets may be had at the box-office or online at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s site.

Josh Milteer Photography

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1 reply

  1. Very enjoyable concert. Truly made me feel alive. What a wonderful experience.

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