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All That Glitters

Jones Hall
11/27/2015 -  and November 28*, 29, 2015
Li Huanzhi: Spring Festival Overture
Camille Saint-SaŽns: Piano Concerto No. 5 in F Major, Op. 103 "Egyptian"
Sergei Prokofiev: Selections from Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64

Stephen Hough (piano)
Houston Symphony, Perry So (conductor)

S. Hough (© Grant Hiroshima)

Lin Huanzhi's high-spirited Spring Festival Overture opened a fresh fall concert that was all about dazzling playing. Perry So, stepping in for Long Yu, presided over energetic readings of all three works on the program. Youthful energy flowed from So's baton, but so did masterful control. Only the Prokofiev allowed for substantial interpretation, and it was there that So's Houston Symphony debut was most memorable.

After the overture, Stephen Hough played a sparkling rendition of Saint-SaŽns' Fifth Concerto, a work becoming more and more frequently programmed. The piece requires amazing technical ability matched with utmost finesse, characteristics that define Hough's playing of any repertoire. The piece's straightforward structure is filled with some lovely melodic writing, but perhaps nothing as distinctive as the Second or Fourth concertos. Indeed, the piece seems to wane after the midpoint of the middle movement, despite the excellent playing at the keyboard. So accompanied well, only seeming to lag behind Hough's momentum in the work's coda.

In the Romeo and Juliet selections, the entire orchestra glowed in technically solid and musically convincing execution of Prokofiev's colorful score. So's choices of tempi in the opening selections were brisk, but when tragic elements began to overtake the storyline, the mood shifted. The pulse of the slow section of "The Death of Tybalt" was particularly striking in its tragically broad cortege. In all, the triptych of works made for a fun evening of music and gave Houston a good look at a podium talent from the next generation of maestros.

Marcus Karl Maroney



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