I could seriously get used to the awesome feeling I've had after the last couple Houston Symphony Orchestra concerts. Yet again, they dug their heels in this past weekend and produced some remarkable music. The orchestra dug its claws in to me again, I'm happy to report!
Britten's Four Sea Interludes From Peter Grimes started the evening out, and what a sublime piece it is. The orchestra really pulled out all the stops for this performance. (except the violins. I hate to rag on them, but yet again they left much to be desired). Major props also go to conductor Alexander Shelley, who clearly had a vision for this work. I mean that all quite literally--his conducting is very clear and precise, and it was obvious that he had ideas, visions, and goals for the works we was conducting. You could easily hear the story in the music, the seagulls, waves, storms, and so forth.
After that, Hilary Hahn graced the stage and absolutely blew Prokofiev's Violin Concerto no. 1 out of the water. I mean she nailed it, she owned it, she perfected it, she tore it up! (in the good way, of course) Here is this odd little concerto that could easily go sour if in the wrong hands. In the right hands though, it leaves you wondering why it's not heard more often, and makes you go home and download a recording of it because it is just such a great piece. Hahn did that, and then some! I wish I had enough words to describe her playing. I could write endlessly on her perfectly smooth and lush tone. Her ability to shape phrases--I swear it must come as easily to her as regular conversation. The way she just nails high notes, and with such confidence! I had one of my moments in the Prokofiev. I can't even remember which movement, but it was a very ethereal part, and I remember feeling kind of sucked in to the music and Hahn's playing, and for just a few brief seconds, I felt as if I was in a bubble of sorts. I always say that I go to a concerto to be emotionally affected, I go to a concert to experience and feel deeply, and for a brief moment, I had all my musical wants and desires met, and unsurprisingly, tears formed. It was a moment when, as corny as this sounds, the music made me forget about anything else. Not only that though, I felt like I was the only one in the room. The music became intensely personal. It only lasted a few seconds, but it was fantastic! After the Prokofiev, Hahn wowed us with some Bach, I think...perfect, yet again. As expected, everyone was on their feet after she was done. Gosh, what a delight it was to hear her. If you missed out, I feel sorry for you!
The second half of the concert was all Elgar, starting with the short piece Sospiri, which was simply gorgeous. I learned that sospiri in Italian means "Sigh" and how well he put that to music! It was quite beautiful--intense, but beautiful.
The program ended with his Enigma Variations, a wonderful work made up of thirteen sketches of his friends and wife, and what a neat bunch they must have all been! Every movement is filled with such character! The orchestra did a great job of bringing each personality out. The famous Nimrod variation was sublime. I could kiss everyone in the orchestra for that movement--it was another tearjerker for me.
I've so dug the last couple HSO performances, big time. They've seem so fresh to me, so alive, and full of vitality. I dunno what it is. Perhaps it's me? Perhaps it's the guest conductors, bringing something new and fresh each time to the orchestra? Perhaps it's the great rep they've been playing? Who knows. Whatever it is, it's fantastic!