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  1. #1
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    Cool A review of last Wed's Gala Concert at Teatro Nacional

    For lovers of classical music, one major drawback of living in DR is the lack of high-quality performances. However, those who attended the Wed night gala concert were in for a great treat, as three top prize winners from last year’s Santander International Piano Competition in Spain each performed a piano concerto under Alvaro Manzano’s baton.

    The concert starts with Chopin’s First Piano Concerto, featuring Chinese-American Ning Ah as soloist. A tall, burly figure, Ning Ah sits unassumingly at the keyboard. Innately musical, Ah is quietly persuasive though his playing is a bit on the cautious side. His dynamics ebb and flow very naturally as the music unfolds. Unlike many a young virtuoso given to barn-storming, An takes painstaking care to explore the quieter passages while the scales run sparklingly. The second movement, “Romanza”, is lovingly tender. He holds the audience in rapt attention by way of his pianissimo playing. So quiet and so exquisite is his playing one can hear a pin drop.

    Overall, An is a pianist of control, of calibration and not given to sudden burst of energy, but he is unfailingly musical throughout. The essence of Chopin’s piano writing shines through Ah’s thoughtful interpretation.

    Next in line, the Korean Soyeon Lee is a far more extroverted soloist in Ravel’s Piano Concerto. From the start, she dazzles with visual impact. Her manner is propulsive from the first note to last. Coming on stage in red-laced dress that reveals her svelte arms, Lee’s delight of being on stage is clearly visible the way she pounces and sways at the keyboard. There is a vitality and forward energy that suits the jazzy character of the first movement very well. The orchestra also sounds surprisingly crisp though it starts the movement one beat off.

    The 2nd movement, which starts with a dreamily ruminative piano solo, unfortunately falls flat under Lee’s fingers. Simplicity doesn’t equate blandness. Her playing here is plain but not plaintive, a mood that pervades this quiet movement.

    Come the short Finale, and Lee is back to her energizing best. She chops, romps and frolics all the way to the finishing line, sending the audience to frenzy. This is a pianist who sure understands and knows how to manipulate audience psychology to her advantage.


    After intermission, the concert resumes with the Bartok Third Piano Concerto played by Boris Giltburg, who is altogether a different stock. Driven with Russian intensity, he delivers a chiseled and vibrant account of Bartok’s Third Piano Concerto, the composer’s final work. Solid, firm and eager to tackle large chordal and octave passages, Giltburg leaves no stone unturned as he charges with ferocity. In terms of solidarity, this is the most “professional” of the three performances, with every aspect of his playing nearly unassailable. Giltburg’s technique is fearsome, which no doubt earned him the 2nd prize (1st prize went unfulfilled). We don’t hear Bartok’s music often, or at all, performed in DR and it is a rare treat to hear this glorious concerto interpreted at such a high level.

    This is one of the most satisfying concert I have attended in DR since 1999 and it made my 3-hour round-trip drive from San Pedro worth every mile !

  2. #2
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    Jan 2002
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    Default Thank you very much for that review

    I am so happy that some idiot's cell phone or beeper did not sound off during the quiet moments!!.

    That was a good evening by your account. Perhaps I should take the 3 hour round trip from Santiago and attend a good concert one of the days?

    All the best, she-she!

    HB

  3. #3
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    May 2002
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    Talking That is a GREAT POST!!!!!!!

    THANK YOU!!!!
    Tim H.

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