Philharmonic review for April 29, 2007

William Nesmith, Courier & Press correspondent
Sunday, April 29, 2007


I’m back. (Did you miss me?)

After being unable to attend the concerts of the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra for several weeks due to other commitments, I was finally able to return on Saturday night and, along with about 1,199 other members of the audience, heard the best concert of the current season, an all-Russian program which deserved the loud bravos and standing ovations.

This has been, to my thinking, a rather uneven season, with moments of brilliance and dash interspersed with some rather ho-hum programming and the occasional uninspired moment.

But then, there have been those times... like the wonderful Brahms 4th Symphony, the sparkling Gottschalk “Night in the Tropics”, and the gorgeous “Nights in the Gardens of Spain”... when all you can do is sit back and realize that this is why you go to hear symphonic music, and why everyone else should, too.

Saturday night was an entire evening of such times, from the opening flourish of Glinka’s “Russlan and Ludmilla” Overture to the closing crescendo of Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite”.

Glinka’s popular and tuneful “Russlan and Ludmilla” Overture got the evening off to an appropriately buoyant start, with the brass displaying a fine, rich Russian sound.

Then there came the most noteworthy performance of the evening, and possibly of the entire season -- pianist Jung Lin’s overpowering performance of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3, a piece which is well-known as a destroyer of reputations. The solo part is fiendishly difficult, with a gazillion notes for the soloist, and the additional difficulty that it was written by Rachmaninov for his own hands. And he was 6 feet 8 inches tall, with hands to match.

Miss Lin, as has been previously reported in this paper, is not a large person. But she is a very large pianist, and clearly one of brilliance. This was a stunning, thundering performance which deserved more than the three bows the audience demanded; she should have still been taking return bows on Sunday afternoon, for my money.

The balance of the evening was deeply satisfying, as well.

Tchaikovsky’s music from “Swan Lake” has been played and played and played to the point that it has become a cliche. But, in spite of all this abuse, it remains a wonderful piece, one which deserves a fresh listen now and then. The Philharmonic’s performance of this chestnut was graceful, nuanced and perfectly delightful, especially in the Waltz and the Finale, where the strings showed once again just how sensitively and subtly they can play as a section.

The final selection, Igor Stravinsky’s well-known Suite from “The Firebird”, (1919 version) is a warhorse which was a perfect end to the evening.

And the season. Bravo!