VERDI: La Forza del Destino Overture
TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1
BARTOK: Concerto for Orchestra
David Amado, conductor
Orion Weiss, Pianist
Verdi ruled the Italian Opera Stage in the 19th c. As such, we don’t get to indulge much at the symphony. But when we do, it is mostly through the overtures he wrote for his operas. We’ll begin our fourth Classics Series concert with his virtuoso overture to La Forza del Destino. Verdi was known for his innate sense of the voice, and his ability to showcase it. In overtures, with no voices to showcase, he equally expertly shines a light on the orchestra. The Forza Overture is one of Verdi’s finest—great tunes, dramatic swings, bristling energy, and showstopping virtuosity.
Next is Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto. The young American Van Cliburn rose to international stardom when in 1958, with this piece as his vehicle, he became the first American to win the Tchaikovsky Competition in the chill of the Cold War. The Soviets surely were expecting to demonstrate their cultural superiority to the west—but Cliburn eclipsed the other contestants, and won over the jury. The rest is history. In the role of Cliburn, we welcome Orien Weiss—a brilliant musician of our era. The concerto is brimming with beloved tunes and pianistic pyrotechnics. And of course, Tchaikovsky was, together with Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Schubert, one of the finest melodists to walk the planet. And he gives us some of his finest here.
We close with Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra. Where Tchaikovsky—and Beethoven—wrote concertos featuring a soloist (or in the case of Mozart, two soloists), Bartok changed the rules of engagement, and wrote a concerto for everyone. It is the ultimate in egalitarianism. The whole orchestra is the soloist. Different sections, and individuals take their turn showing off. Bartok was one of the first ethnomusicologists—he roamed around his native Hungary with a wax cylinder recorder documenting locals’ folksongs. Many of those songs find their way into his work—but more importantly, the musical language of those songs becomes Bartok’s own—imbuing his work with a genuine flavor of Hungary.