Goodyear climaxes great year
Last July, the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra's new interim president, Gideon Toeplitz, faced the symphony's financial shortfall. In a Star-Bulletin article he acknowledged the decrease in attendance at classical concerts, a countrywide phenomenon. As a solution, he suggested a change in the experience of listening and viewing, without changing the music.
In concert: 4 p.m. today
Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Tickets: $12 to $65
The efforts paid off. The symphony season ends today, after featuring excellent programs, skilled conductors and tremendous soloists. Never too challenging and often perceived as "light classical," the music has pleased diverse crowds. Next season looks promising, too. Once more, several renowned international soloists will share their talents in a variety of music.
Friday's Italian-themed program starred 26-year-old pianist Stewart Goodyear in Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" (1934), taken from Paganini's violin "Caprice," Op. 1, No. 24. No exaggeration, Goodyear's musicianship and spicy skills, combined with an obvious effortless interpretation, were one of a kind.
Rachmaninoff's popular piece is not just about virtuosity. It is an innovative piece that hides little musical jewels. For example, the sequence of "Variations" XI to XVIII, in which the composer's style overtly emerges, requires a reflective approach, as in a slow movement of a concerto. Goodyear's sophisticated reading of the score gratified our ears.
Each variation ranges from one to two minutes and has a spirit of its own. Played without interruption, the variations constantly change the flavor of the piece. The unmistakable theme, based on the "Dies Irae" and representing Paganini's proverbial evilness, appears only after the first variation by the violins in unison, accompanied by the piano. All the mischief sparkled on the keyboard. Goodyear had great fun playing and the enjoyment spread through the hall.
The orchestra, under JoAnn Falletta's baton, went along with it. The conductor's enthusiasm and ample movements made it possible to understand all that was going on. In particular, Goodyear's counterpoint with trumpet and winds tossed glitter over the performance.
After a standing ovation, the pianist played Schultz-Evler's arrangement of Johann Strauss Jr.'s "Blue Danube Waltz." Everybody recognized the tune, laughed, and then, amazed by Goodyear's virtuosity, fell into an excited silence.
Framing Rachmaninoff's work, the symphony played an immaculate interpretation of Elgar's overture "In the South" (1904), inspired by the fertile landscape of Liguria in Northern Italy (but the South for Elgar). The second half featured music by two Italian composers, Martucci's "Notturno" (1888), a lyrical nostalgic piece, and Respighi's "Vetrate di Chiesa," ("Church Windows," 1927), a bombastic orchestral showpiece inspired by four ecclesiastical scenes. The last one, "St. Gregory the Great," closed the concert with a breathtaking climax, a multicolored musical version of a Hollywood epic.
Valeria Wenderoth has a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Hawaii, where she also teaches.