Robert Thies, pianao
Jorge Mester, Conductor
Robert Thies, Piano
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents copyright © 2015 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved
As the proverbial curtain rises on the stage of Whitney Hall, after the tuning of the Louisville Orchestra, as soon as Maestro Mester appears on stage, Concertmaster Michael Davis leaps from his chair with the first strains of Happy Birthday. Before long the whole of the orchestra played while the audience sang to the now 80 year old Maestro. I believe that I even heard others in the audience join in the harmony (other than myself).
The evening began with Romantic-era composer Hector Berlioz’s Roman Carnival, op. 9. Much like Berlioz’s other compositions, this too was light and airy, with some bit of fire for contrast. I really enjoyed the opening Viola ensemble, providing the first melodic foundation to the rest of the composition. Also thrown into the mix was a beautiful solo by Trevor Johnson’s English horn. The choice of this composition was contrast from the rest of the program of Russian composers; consider it an amuse bouche. And speaking of being amused, one young percussionist, who, through his body movement and facial expressions, communicated a joy in being there.
After the lowering and raising of the stage to place the grand piano, we were treated to Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major featuring Robert Thies. From the first touch to the ivories I could see that we were in for an amazing show of dexterity and prowess. The Orchestra and Mr. Thies worked in tandem, infusing grand, sweeping movements with punctuations of individualism. Often times Mr. Thies’ interpretation of the Concerto was reminiscent of a cascading waterfall.
While I was not very familiar with this particular Concerto, I dare say that I have heard bits and pieces of it from other composer’s works: for example, in the second movement there is a cadence that is very reminiscent of a melodic line of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera. Within the third movement, upon a doubling of the Bass and Piano, all within the lower notes of the scale, I could feel the vibrations that a deep bass can cause, which delighted me.
I believe that upon the strike of the last note of Prokofiev’s Concerto there was a great, inward sigh of relief and accomplishment from Mr. Thies, as he and the Maestro embraced and faced the appreciative audience. He and the Orchestra deserved every morsel of adulation.
Upon the return to the Hall from intermission the main course was about to be served, Tchaikovsky’s oft performed Pathétique. Now before you say that you are not familiar with this particular work, I assure you, you are. Within the first three minutes the familiar melody from the violin comes into play. Excerpts of Symphony No. 6 has been used in movies like Soylent Green and even cartoons such as Ren and Stimpy (and in full disclosure, I knew those tidbits from first hand exposure), as well as countless commercials and television shows.
I believe it was evident that this Orchestra has performed this piece before, but remained vigilant to the score and the Maestro’s baton. Lovely solos from the Orchestra’s Woodwinds within the first movement were bright and vibrant. In the second movement, there was an entrance where the cellos weren’t all on the same page of the score, but they quickly recovered. The third movement was certainly full of thrills, if not fireworks (deserving of applause from the audience). By the fourth movement all eyes were on Maestro Mester as he controlled the contemplative tone of the composition. When the cellos bowed across their bridges at a pianissimo level, I believe it was so reflective that the audience was afraid to applaud for more than a few seconds, so as to not disrupt the sound of the strings’ reverberation.
I thoroughly enjoyed all of the choices for this evening’s performance and wouldn’t be upset should the Orchestra delve deeper into the rich tapestry that is Russian music.
April 10, 2015
Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
[box_light]Annette Skaggs is a heavily involved Arts Advocate here in Louisville and freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York Opera and Northwestern University. She has a 25+ year knowledge of the Classical Arts.[/box_light]