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A triumph for a young pianist

Meyerson Symphony Centre
03/27/2014 -  & March 28, 29, 30, 2014
Johannes Brahms: Tragic Overture, Op. 81
Frydryk Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11
Antonín Dvorák: The Water Goblin, Op. 107
Leos Janácek: Sinfonietta

Jan Lisiecki (pianist)
The Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Jakub Hrůsa (conductor)

The headline feature of this concert was the triumph the audience accorded to Jan Lisiecki for his performance of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 - coincidentally a work composed by a 19-year-old and here played by one. In concerto performances one tries to discern whether the conductor is following the pianist or vice versa; on this occasion they seemed to be in full accord with one another. The violins had a light, airy tone that well matched the dreamlike phrases of so many sections of the work. Lisiecki’s opening phrases were downright blingy, but this did not rule out sensuous delicacy when appropriate (also often is in this piece). The second movement had a daydreamy languor, and the final movement was confidently handled.

The concert opened with Brahms’s Tragic Overture in which the orchestral sound was opulent without being mushy. Jakub Hrůsa’s conducting was a bit too deliberate in places; perhaps he was bent on clarity, not a bad aim. Brahms needn’t be foggy.

The second half of the concert opened with a Dvorák rarity, The Water Goblin, a tone poem composed late in the composer’s career. Its 20-minute length represents a macabre tale about a mortal woman’s fraught (to say the least) experiences with a vengeful water goblin. I felt that Hrůsa led an engaging performance, although the piece received perfunctory applause. One must concede that its sombre finish is hardly rousing - and this was the third fairly substantial 19th-century piece on a hefty program.

The concert ended with a chronological leap into the 1920s and a rousing performance of Leos Janácek’s Sinfonietta, also a work composed late in the composer’s career - although, as we know, Janácek was somewhat of a late bloomer. Jakub Hrůsa’s expansive gestures guided an exuberant performance which couldn’t help feature the 13 extra brass players situated in the choir loft. The work manages to avoid the charge of being bombastic by its quicksilver, scurrying forays into folkish byways. All in all, it was a deftly rendered and bracing conclusion to a venturesome concert.

This rich program was played an impressive four times, funded in part by the Gina Bachauer Young Artists Memorial Fund. It’s wonderful to know that a great pianist of the recent past (Bachauer lived from 1913-1976) is commemorated in this way.

Michael Johnson



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