Intensity with a dash of wit
Ohyama and pianist Bidini conjure power and piquancy
Who said massive volume and intoxicating buildups belong only to rock? Or that classical music is for a select few and has nothing to do with fun? That opinionated individual should have been at the Blaisdell Concert Hall Friday night experiencing the pleasure of powerful sounds and good humored virtuosity.
In concert: 4 p.m. today
Where: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Tickets: $22 to $73
Call: 792-2000 or Ticketmaster, (877) 750-4400
The Honolulu Symphony and conductor Heiichiro Ohyama mastered the crescendo and bursting volumes, and pianist Fabio Bidini captivated the audience with his wonderful skills in a concert including works by Mozart, Dohnányi and Elgar.
First, Mozart's crackling Parisian Symphony No. 31 (1778). This work includes both crescendos in the Mannheim tradition and Parisian attention-grabber specialties. Mozart scored it for a larger orchestra than any of his earlier symphonies and used the whole orchestral spectrum to reach brilliant moments. Especially fun to listen to was the last movement, which starts with two violins playing softly for a few measures, followed abruptly by a "forte." Ohyama and the orchestra shared the refreshing fun with an audience that was sometimes too eager to applaud.
Italian pianist Bidini played Dohnányi's "Variations on a Nursery Song" (1913) with spirited humor, intensity and ease. After a boisterous and dramatic orchestral introduction, Bidini played the "Twinkle Twinkle" theme smiling to the audience. The variations, a kaleidoscope of Hungarian Chopin-like passages, waltzes and colorful orchestral interjections, allowed Bidini to ignite fire on the piano. We did not see the smoke, but we heard it. Thanks to his vibrant skills, the piece -- dedicated "to the enjoyment of lovers of humor and to the annoyance of others" -- appealed more for its witty side than its oddity.
After the "Variations," Bidini was asked back. The encore, Chopin's spell-binding "Nocturne in C minor," kept everyone exceptionally quiet. He proved that his easiness does not apply only to bravura pieces, but also to his musicality.
The orchestra then played Elgar's "Enigma Variations" (1899) -- not humorous, but full of mysterious references and passionate moments. This piece is an unsolved mystery, intriguing to scholars and the musically curious. Elgar never defined the "enigma," but dedicated each variation in the piece to a friend. He was fascinated by puzzles and secret codes and left critics and the public free to guess.
How can a musician and a listener not understand the code, yet enjoy the music? Well, we did not need to be musical detectives to enjoy Friday's performance. Ohyama drew from the orchestra all the beauty and nuance of the piece. Violist Mark Butin and cellist Mark Votapeck shone in two variations. Especially remarkable was the "Nimrod," a variation reminiscent of Beethoven's grandeur. This re-appears in the finale, a celebration of the composer and an exquisite ending to the concert.
Valeria Wenderoth has a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she also teaches.