Young musicians and famed pianist prove distinction
Any performance featuring two orchestras, two conductors and a distinguished soloist is an event. When the joint effort results in a great success, the occasion becomes an experience that should not be passed up.
When: 4 p.m. today
Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Tickets: $15 to $68; students $10
Call: 792-2000 or visit www.honolulusymphony.com.
The Hawaii Youth Symphony, a wonderful force of accomplished young musicians from many different schools, is part of Hawaii's tradition: These gifted musicians, ages 8 to 18, under the baton of Henry Miyamura, have become a respected institution. They are appreciated not only by the audience, but also by their teachers, many of whom are musicians in the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra.
Friday, the young artists had the chance to play by themselves and with their teachers in the first part of a concert that included Rimsky-Korsakov's "Russian Easter Overture" (1877), Michael Foumai's "Dynasty" (2006) and Sibelius' "Finlandia" (1899).
The Rimsky-Korsakov's piece, representing pagan and early Christian medieval legends and rituals, alternates bright and dark dramatic moments. It is majestic and grave, and continuously springs energy. Miyamura's focused guidance and control contained, but also gave room to, the youthful musical energy, doing justice to the piece.
Foumai's work was commissioned by Miyamura and premiered in 2006. Inspired by Fan Dai's story, "The Butterfly Lovers," this one-movement concerto is rich in motives and showcases all the orchestra sections. If at times this intricate piece did not seem to be performed coherently, it surely created a general dramatic atmosphere suitable to large-scale action/historical movies.
"Finlandia" gathered all the musicians in a wonderful rendition of a symphonic poem that evokes the Finnish national struggle against the Russian empire. It was more turbulent music, but this time ending with calm, in line with its hymn-like solemnity.
The concert's second half featured a tremendous interpretation of Beethoven's "Leonore" Overture No. 3 (1814) and Rachmaninoff's Concerto for Piano No. 2 (1900) by conductor Gregory Vajda.
Although expectations were mostly directed toward excellent Russian pianist Lilya Zilberstein, the conductor's amazing understanding of both pieces thrilled the audience. Especially in "Leonore," a piece delivering a great range of emotions, he led the orchestra into a journey built on subtle changes of volume, textural contrasts and ultimately great fluidity.
Oddly, the concert ended with Rachmaninoff's piano concerto. Usually performed in the first part of concert programs, this work requires a great virtuoso and a clever conductor, as both piano and orchestra play key roles. Zilberstein gave a tremendous interpretation, establishing immediately the tone of the piece with the chord progressions and rhythmic tension typical of Rachmaninoff. Gracefully, she accompanied the orchestra and flawlessly ran her fingers from the lowest to the highest notes on the keyboard.
Particularly beautiful was the beginning of the second movement, in which she, Scott Anderson on clarinet and Susan McGinn on flute provided a temporary serenity. Finally, the last movement allowed Zilberstein to express her passionate interpretation with quick runs and sophisticated virtuosity. After sharing the memorable lyrical theme with the orchestra, she left the audience in a standing ovation.
Valeria Wenderoth has a doctorate in musicology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she also teaches.