Monday, January 19, 2015

Grand Rapids Symphony Night ~ 1/10/15

Our pre-concert dinner is usually at Bull's Head Tavern, due mainly to its convenient location to DeVos Performance Hall. And lucky for us, the food and service is also wonderful.
We had an awkward encounter with this guy, who at the time of our entrance was standing behind his chair and wasn't budging an inch to let us get by. Some of his friends snickered and still he didn't have a clue. He was with two long tables of baseball cap-wearing folk there for some convention at Amway. 
Good thing Tony Soprano wasn't there :-)
The symphony was warming up, and once again, we had a Guest Conductor as the symphony continues its search for its next Music Director.
The amazing, Joshua Weilerstein energetically walked out and proceeded to brief the audience on each of the three selections of the evening, and we loved it. The first piece (12 minutes), Iscariot by Christopher Rouse, started out in lush beauty but quickly moved into less pleasing dissonance. With the title of the piece taken from Judas Iscariot in the New Testament, I guess that makes sense. Quickly it was time to change the stage, bring out the piano, and tune the orchestra for the arrival of the renown Stephen Hough!
As Weilerstein described in his introduction, Dvorak's Concerto for Piano in G minor is rarely heard live because, according to Stephen Hough, it was composed by a violinist for a pianist with 10 thumbs. The piece is incredibly difficult but so beautiful to hear, with piano and orchestra exquisitely blended. Unfortunately, after the conclusion of each movement the audience members applauded. But they made it up to Hough by applauding enough after the conclusion to bring him back for an encore. He announced what it was before he began to play but I didn't catch it. It wasn't listed in the Friday night review but I don't think that audience gave him enough of an ovation to bring him back. So later that night I put the question out on twitter to @grsymphony @artswriter and #stephenhough (I couldn't find Stephen specifically on twitter). And who should respond but the great man himself.
After the intermission, Weilerstein conducted Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 3, "Scottish." This time the audience respected the movements, and joyful and lyrical were both the composition and the conductor. We hope Joshua Weilerstein is a contender for the Music Director position and were so honored to have Stephen Hough here in Grand Rapids.

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