ShareThis Page
Home

Review: Tortelier gives powerful voice to composers; Benedetti makes impressive debut

| Thursday, March 3, 2011

The compelling voice of four distinctive composers was conveyed with flair and precision this afternoon by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and guest conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier.

Joan Tower's dramatic "Tambor" (Drum) opened the concert. She's the symphony's composer of the year and gave an excellent and succinct spoken introduction to her music, noting as usual that she has the distinction of being a living composer.

Yesterday's performance was the first of three this week, but the symphony actually has considerable experience with this piece. Mariss Jansons and the Pittsburgh Symphony commissioned "Tambor" and gave the world premiere in 1998. Tortelier conducted it in June 2004 during a meeting of the American Symphony Orchestra League.

Tortelier led a decisive and persuasive performance yesterday at Heinz Hall. The power of the orchestra, its forceful rhythmic energy and some beautiful non-percussion solos were impressive. The percussion section played with superb definition and wide dynamic range.

Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti made an impressive debut with the orchestra, playing two French pieces that could hardly be more contrasted. Benedetti draws an exceptionally rich and full-bodied sound from her Stradivarius instrument. Her vibrato was ample without being excessive, and her bowing has character.

Nevertheless, in Ernest Chausson's "Poeme," her inwardness was so in the moment her solos felt fragmented, leaving it to Tortelier and the orchestra to create sweeping feelings.

Maurice Ravel's "Tzigane" was much more successful. The Gypsy lyricism prompted a fine long line in lyrical passages, while Benedetti's virtuosity in faster passages was properly breathtaking.

After intermission, Tortelier turned to Igor Stravinsky's "The Firebird," leading a performance of the 1945 suite.

"The Firebird" was Stravinsky's first big success, written with luxurious Russian late Romanticism but first performed in Paris in 1910. The original score is for huge orchestra. When Stravinsky revised the ballet in 1945 for smaller orchestra, he also revised the suite. He included more music from the ballet than a suite he had made in 1919, which more than compensates for the smaller size of the orchestra.

Tortelier led a magnificent Stravinsky performance. It was full of individual touches, such as nuances in the string accompaniment to William Caballero's luscious horn solo.

Performances continue at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Admission: $12.50 to $93. Details: 412-392-4900 or www.pittsburghsymphony.org.

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.

click me