ASO: Robert Spano with Garrick Ohlsson

I guess that because the season premier concert was a one-off performed on a Thursday, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra could get away with calling last night’s performance their opening weekend concert. As per tradition, Spano led the orchestra in the Star Spangled Banner with much of the audience singing along.

The meat of the concert began with John Adams’ “Tromba Lontana,” which was commissioned as part of a set of fanfares. Unlike most fanfares, it is rather subdued: it never gets particularly loud. It features two solo trumptes, placed on opposite sides of the stage, playing soft, distant-sounding notes. (Tromba Lontana is Italian for “distant trumpet.”) It is a beautiful piece but, despite its softness, it builds tension and excitement, doing as good of a job of announcing that we should pay attention to whatever follows as and loud, brassy fanfare would.

I had a hard time appreciating the performance of the next piece, Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5. I had taken a decongestant earlier in the day and it began wearing off during this piece. It took me a while to realize that it was this that was messing with my perception of the dynamics of the piece, but it sounded like the pianissimo bits seemed to be taken too quietly and it felt unnatural as it came back up towards forte. I realized that I was having a hard time paying attention and was zoning in and out, too. I didn’t even realize that there was a standing ovation around me at first. It mostly subsided during intermission, but there were moments where the orchestra seemed to become distant in the Rachmaninov that followed.

After the intermission, Garrick Ohlsson joined Spano and the orchestra for a very enjoyable performance of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Ohlsson played masterfully, bringing all of the feeling from each part and the orchestra was mostly spot on what I wanted to hear. Ohlsson then generously gave two encores: Chopin’s waltz in C# minor as well as one of Scriabin’s études. He managed to bring all of the charm possible out of both pieces.

Overall it was a solid second start to the season.

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