PSO eloquently slips between light, dark
While the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is looking at the possibility of returning to Iran for the first time in 50 years, it resumed classical concerts on Friday night with a program featuring the local premiere of a piece inspired by love of the Iranian people and Persian heritage.
Christoph Konig was the guest conductor at Heinz Hall and was impressive from the start, with Franz Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 22, nicknamed “The Philosopher.” The first movement begins with a walking figure in the strings, over which pairs of French horns and English horns exchange slower lines.
Konig inflected the opening string parts with wonderful musicality, encouraged full textures and employed the divided violins with the utmost sensitivity.
The rest of the symphony was no less admirable, with bold tempi, phrases that sang and deft use of non-vibrato sonorities. Haydn is known for his musical humor, and Konig added his own — and silent — joke at the end of the second movement.
Richard Danielpour's “Darkness in the Ancient Valley” was commissioned by the Nashville and Pittsburgh symphonies. It is an important piece for the composer, who was born and raised in New York City to Iranian immigrant parents, because it is an ardent expression of his recent embrace of his ancestral roots.
“Darkness in the Ancient Valley” is an inspired composition, conceived on a grand scale and brilliantly orchestrated. It begins with “Lamentation,” in which lovely Persian melodic turns are contrasted with brutality and wailing.
The second and fourth movements, Desecration and Profanation, are violent, sometimes garish, and a distortion of the beauty heard in the first movement. Benediction, the third movement, features long, eloquent solo lines for solo cello.
The finale is for soprano and orchestra, a setting of a poem by the ancient Persian poet Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi in which a wife swears to not reply with violence to her husband's abuse. Danielpour uses it as a metaphor for the non-violence of the Iranian people during the Green Revolution. Hila Plitman sang it with rapt devotion, but occasionally so softly the words were lost.
The concert concluded with “Also sprach Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss. Some of Konig's tempi were slow, but he drew marvelously sensitive phrasing from the orchestra.
This concert will be repeated at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Heinz Hall, Downtown. Admission is $25.75 to $105.75. Details: 412-392-4900 or www. pittsburghsymphony .org.
Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Photo gallery: Moby set wraps up Thrival Festival
- Mutter’s lustrous performance highlight of PSO gala concert
- Ariana Grande tour to include Petersen Events Center
- Corea’s trio turns a year of touring into a CD ‘Trilogy’
- Classic Country: Forsythe honored for contribution to tradition
- Band Blast brings big fun for a low price
- James Taylor coming to Consol on Nov. 29
- Demi Lovato World Tour comes to Petersen Events Center
- Mellencamp to bring tour to Benedum Center
- Photo gallery: Spoon dishes out new hits to Pittsburgh fans
- The Black Keys work fans into fever at Consol