Sunday, April 09, 2006

"D" Makes Her Debut

A big black lady was the featured performer at this weekend's Kansas City Symphony concerts. No, not Ida McBeth or even Oprah or Jesse Norman. She was the brand new Steinway D concert grand, list price $103,700. She stole the show.

The soloist for the evening Joseph Kalichstein had the honor of publicly introducing the grand lady, as well he should. Kalichstein, an excellent pianist I had heard mention of but never heard even in recording, helped select the piano. A friend of Maestro Stern, Kalichstein visited the Steinway factory in Queens, N.Y., and found this great beauty.

Every large concert grand is an unique creation. About this one Kalichstein said,"It just sings."

Sing she did; a great range, solid sonorous bass, a clear middle section and strong upper register. A beautiful, ringing tone, and agile action and pedals... she being brand new of course.

Kalichstein demonstrated a complete command of the Schumann Concerto in A, never letting it drag or let the hyper-romanticism get out of control. The faster sections and thrilling cadenza, though not "flashy" as the Rachmaninoff concertos, offered plenty of opportunity for Kalichstein's (and the piano's) technique and ability shine. The Orchestra was a warm and engaging partner, and as in last weekend's concert, extraordinary contributions from the woodwinds. "Miss D" herself was afforded her own round of applause, led by Mr. Kalichstein.

The Schumann was bookended by Mozart's sunny and lively Symphony # 1 written in England when he was 8, and sidelined from concertizing while his father recovered from an illness. Stern led the small orchestra in a cheerful, yet solid rendition that clearly showed the way Mozart was leading music.

Stern pointed out that a horn figure in the second movement of the 1st Symphony pre-figured the great "Jupiter" theme in Mozart's crowing achievement, the Symphony # 41 "Jupiter" which provided the second bookend to the evening. The orchestra deserved the standing ovation for the lively and "symphonic" performance of the Symphony. No cut down, dry "period" or "original" performance here, this was symphonic Mozart, looking forward to Beethoven and Schubert and beyond. The famous last movement, with the brilliant blending of 5 distinct themes was clear, precise and elegant.

Gauging the reaction from the audience, The Orchestra, Miss D, Stern and Kalichstein all had quite a successful evening.

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