Except the word “play” hardly does justice to what Wang did when she sat down at the piano. Rather, she coaxed, caressed, cajoled and sometimes attacked the keys with enough energy to lift her slender frame off the piano bench. I don’t think there was a single note from end to end that she simply “played.”
For instance, her first-movement cadenza was a surefooted crescendo from a whisper to a thunderstorm. And her passage-work in the forth movement was shot-through with irregular accents, emphasizing the music’s grotesque character. These sorts of details compel audiences listen more closely. And listening closely to Wang was a very rewarding experience.
Moreover, Wang found a sympathetic ally in TSO music director Peter Oundjian. With sensitivity, he held the orchestra down to complement her delicate pianistic ruminations, and put some heft behind her exuberant outbursts.
There were two other works on the program – both of which invoked the idea of some kind of musical journey.
The TSO’s performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade was being recorded for a new compact disc, and it was clear that everyone had put in a lot of care into a refined rendition of this glorious score. Concertmaster Jonathan Crow`s violin solos were sweet and nicely finessed – and the other soloists displayed a similar attention to detail.
For these reasons, it was all very admirable. Yet I felt myself wishing for more freedom and fluidity than Oundjian seemed willing to grant his players. He appeared reluctant to let the genie entirely out of the bottle and allow this exotic music fill the hall to the bursting point. Oundjian seemed to be trying to “tame” the piece, as if distrustful of its full expressive potential.
On the other hand, Treeship, a new work by TSO affiliate composer Kevin Lau, was overflowing with abundance. There was much melody, much harmony, much sonority and much colour – from a young composer with much talent. However, all this muchness was a bit much at times, and Treeship threatened to choke on its own thick, glittery textures.
Stylistically, the piece reminded me of Holst’s Planets. But Lau’s score lacked the Gestalt of a fully formed planet; rather, it was still a swirling, gaseous mass.
© Colin Eatock 2013