Saturday, February 26, 2022

concert review: Peninsula Symphony

Oh, really? What with all that's been going on in the world over the last week, now you program an all-Russian concert?

Well, to be fair, it was chosen a long time ago. And before the last piece, conductor Mitchell Sardou Klein spoke to the audience. He said that Shostakovich had spent his entire adult life under the heel of an authoritarian regime, and he poured all his resentment, anger, fear, and more into this work, his Fifth Symphony. Thus it's more, rather than less, appropriate to play it now, as a symbol of defiance.

A little oversimplified, but the right thing to say. And it was mostly a slow, sober performance without emotional overload at the clinaxes. Except for the celebratory, or mock-celebratory, finale, which was taken at a hasty clip, as if the conductor didn't quite believe the music. Many don't, but they're rarely this explicit about it.

Also on the program, Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1. Local hero Jon Nakamatsu played the solo part with skill and panache, seeming less like a flashy virtuoso than a guy who was just up there playing the piano. That could have been because he and the instrument were crammed into a narrow space at the front of a small stage in an undistinguished auditorium (Heritage Theatre in Campbell), but it was further emphasized by a thoroughly unpretentious encore, Joplin's The Entertainer. But my word, what a garrulous concerto.

Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter Overture is a difficult piece to get running in gear, but assistant conductor Hoh Chen did pretty well with it. Playing was pretty good, though some exposed long lyric lines for viola in the Shostakovich could have used a little work.

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