ASO: Robert Spano with Stephen Hough

Today was pretty bad. Today I also learned about the death last evening of an old friend of mine from college. My bursitis has returned with a vengeance this week and has been waking me up at night and I was really aching today. I have been terribly concerned about world events and domestic politics. I’ve been dealing with a horrendous commute thanks to the I-85 bridge collapse. And I could go on and on about work. Thankfully, Maestro Spano and the musicians of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra were there for me this evening.

The program was 100% Rachmaninov, beginning with “Vocalise.” Spano clearly put a lot of thought into it and I have to say that the sweetness of the piece definitely came through. However, there was a kind of deliberateness to it – not a technical dryness or any such thing, but something that made it seem just the tiniest bit too controlled and maybe a somewhat contrived that undermined it for me. The voice of the work just didn’t make it through to me, though I did enjoy it a lot.

Next Stephen Hough joined in for the Piano Concerto no. 1 in F# minor. This isn’t one of my favorites of Rachmaninov’s works, but it has some delightful parts to it in that are fun in that sort of Russian Romanticist intense way that can almost seem frightening at times. Hough handled it masterfully and Spano and the musicians did an excellent job of it, too.

The end of the program was one of the best interpretations of the Symphonic Dances that I’ve heard. The sort of deliberateness that I complained of in “Vocalise” was, ironically, what made this sound so good. I was completely swept away by the music from the first statement of the theme and felt like I was bathing in the sound. Although I didn’t join in with the applause between the movements, I have to admit that there were moments within the movements themselves that I was tempted to shout my approval. It was a most welcome and enjoyable escape that was sorely needed.

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