Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

January 25, 2010

Rachmaninoff & Brahms

Springfield Symphony Orchestra
Symphony Hall, Springfield
by Debra Tinkham

The house was full, the orchestra was charged and Maestro Keven Rhodes made his usual exuberant entrance for an action packed evening.

Gaetano Donizetti's Robert Devereau Overture, premiered in the mid-19th century, displayed deliberate patriotic percussion and theme. Being a love triangle - make that a quadrangle - this opera originally had no overture until Donizetti added it for a Paris debut. It was a short and sweet start for a night of some heavy music.

Moving right along to a Springfield Symphony Orchestra first was Sergei Rachmaninoff's moody Piano Concerto No.1 in F-Sharp minor. Maestro Rhodes described it as, "a relatively youthful work of Rachmaninoff's, it has all his hallmarks: great melodies, tremendous excitement and incredible virtuosity."

Alexander Ghindin, a Russian native, who at the age of 35 and already a major player on the international piano scene, performed with the SSO in a riveting rendition of typical "Rach-style." Gindin's beautiful hand style certainly gave the "old Steinway," the orchestra and Maestro Rhodes a workout. The Vivace movement opened with heavy brass, conjoined with Ghindin's rapid finger movements up and down the keyboard. Although short and melodic, the Andante movement demonstrated a nice harmony between piano and bassoon. This was a nice change from your typical solo instruments. The Allegro Vivace finale was "show-off" time for Ghindin as well as the orchestra. You either know this stuff or you don't; no second guessing. It was loud and moving and melodic and exhilarating. Of course, Ghindin received a standing ovation.

The finale was Johannes Brahms' Symphone No. 2 in D Major. The Allegro non troppo (first movement of four) brought out Brahms' melancholy mood, and was even more evident as the second movement (Adagio non troppo) transitioned into a minor key. Throughout this work, Brahms incorporated the use of many (solo and group) instruments, as is displayed in the Allegretto Grazioso (Scherzo). By the fourth movement, the orchestra had blasted to a fantastic fanfare. The only thing missing on this evening were fireworks.