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After uneven opening, ASO soars behind Weiss

After uneven opening, ASO soars behind Weiss

Pianist gets standing ovation after performing Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2
After uneven opening, ASO soars behind Weiss
Orion Weiss
Photographer: Jacob Blickenstaff

Romance was in the air this weekend at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall with the Albany Symphony Orchestra in top form. 

Like most ASO concerts, this one opened with a new work called “Gaze” from Annika Socolofsky. She told the near-capacity crowd on Sunday afternoon that she wanted to capture the wealth of nuances that she hears in Dolly Parton’s vocal lines through the  use of various solo instruments. While some of that did occur in short bursts that were like a door opening and shutting quickly or in swells of sound, harmonies tended to be discordant or in tone clusters. There was a bit of melody but that never extended.

The orchestra, too, didn’t seem comfortable with the work despite its usual expertise in performing new music. Considering that her title was about looking deeply into a loved one’s eyes, it was hard to hear any romance.

All that changed however when pianist Orion Weiss appeared to perform Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 published in 1836.

The three movements sang with glorious melodies, thousands of notes which sparkled under Weiss’ fingers, and a poetic and intimate interpretation that often hovered in the softer dynamic regions before building to vibrant climaxes. Music director David Alan Miller and the orchestra provided exceptional support. Balances were a marvel particularly around the more intimate passages. Weiss seemed to use dynamics as a nuance. Later, he said he was inspired to use this approach because Chopin often performed with softer levels of sound either due to the instrument he was using or because he was often so ill he didn’t have the strength to play out.

The second movement was languid and strongly nuanced with some good drama in the inner section. The finale was a delicate mazurka with Weiss flawless and effortless. The coda with streams of notes was a laughing frolic. 

The crowd gave him a standing ovation, cheers, and Miller gave him a bouquet and kisses.

Schumann’s Symphony No. 2 (1846) was exceptionally well done. The orchestra  played with a great deal of finesse.

Phrases were finished, the woodwind ensemble was smooth and fluid, and the tone of the orchestra was vibrant and rich.

The second movement was charming, light and frothy. The third movement was like a swoon with aching, longing lines. The finale was vibrant and colorful.

The next ASO concert is March 9 at the Palace Theatre and will feature English percussionist Colin Currie in a program that includes pieces by Paul Hindemith, Robert Honstein, Morton Gould and Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero.”

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