ASO: Hugh Wolff and Denis Kozhukhin

The main reason that I had a ticket for this evening’s performance was Copland’s third symphony and, honestly, I’m just not that into the first two pieces that I had to sit through this evening to get to hear it. I like a lot of John Adams’ work, but ‘Lollapalooza’ kind of annoys me. It starts off kind of groovy, but the repetition of the lol-la-pa-LOO-za theme gets old pretty quickly and, in the end, it strikes me as being kind of soulless and merely nearly fun. The performance of it this evening under Hugh Wolff’s baton wasn’t spectacular nor was it bad. One of the same violinists who was slightly off in the Adams from last week was the same this week, though it wasn’t as big of a deal since the strings were overpowered by the brass. The person sitting next to me said that it felt a lot longer than the listed runtime and, for once, I just agreed instead of trying to defend a contemporary piece of music.

The concerto for the evening was Gershwin’s piano concerto in F with Denis Kozhukhin as soloist. It’s not a bad piece but I’m rarely satisfied with its performance. It’s usually either not jazzy enough or too broadway-ishly over the top. This performance started off more the former. Wolff took it a bit slow and plodding in the first two movements. Kozhukhin was decent, though I disagree with the amount of sustain pedal that he used in some parts of the first movement. He was much better in the second movement, though Wolff managed to make the orchestral accompaniment sound a bit more like they were whining than the playing the sultry blues that I wanted to hear from it. Both orchestra and soloist came together for the pseudo boogie-woogie and ragtime of the third movement, though, and ended the piece very well.

If I wasn’t particularly engaged by the first half of the program, I was very pleased with the Copland that concluded it. Wolff didn’t really bring anything particularly mentionable out of the piece beyond a strong, even, and clear reading of it that let it come to life quite well. There’s a sense of victory and strength of character in the beauty that I hear in the piece that touches me. And the expansion and variation on “Fanfare for the Common Man” always just reaches in and grabs me. This left me happy with the evening, even if half the concert wasn’t quite what I wanted.

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