San Diego Symphony
Jahja Ling, Music Director and Conductor
Lang Lang, Piano
Isaac Stern Auditorium/Ronald O. Perelman Stage
Press: Kirshbaum Demler & Associates
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 29, 2013
David Bruce, Night Parade (New York Premiere)
Sergei Rachmaninoff, Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18
Sergei Prokofiev, Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, Op. 100
The San Diego Symphony is a bold and extraordinary orchestra, with the very dynamic and glowing Jahja Ling as its Conductor and Musical Director. Maestro Ling literally dances and jumps, with his baton slicing the air vehemently. I cannot remember a concert so moving, as we heard Lang Lang featured in the Rachmaninoff “Second Piano Concerto” tonight, in addition to the orchestra in the Prokofiev “Fifth Symphony”. To magnify the experience, a New York Premiere began the evening, David Bruce’s Night Parade. The charged introduction includes chimes and muted horns, then deep brassy staccato. Echoing, urban passages evoke Bernstein and Glass, even Golijov. A dissonant rush is followed by atonal dreaminess, before Bruce reinvents the theme with strings. A joyous, almost feverish, finale ends with chimes. Maestro Ling holds the audience still, with his baton, as muffled vibrations turn to silence.
The Carnegie Hall program notes mention Rachmaninoff’s treatment by a doctor of hypnosis, who infused emotional support for the composer to write his “Second Piano Concerto”, during a difficult period in his life. This Concerto is renowned and revered today, and when Lang Lang, a striking presence at the Steinway, raised his hands, theatrically, above the keyboard, the Hall held its collective breath. The first “Moderato” movement then filled the ardent listeners with rapture and soulfulness. The repetitive implosion of the theme, building in volume, fragmenting now and then, and returning with even more ecstasy, bound the audience to Lang Lang’s keyboard, as I did see and feel tears of joy. Lang Lang and Jahja Ling, both born in China, kept a tight eye on each other throughout the Concerto, measuring pauses and taut timing. These two artists seemed bound by more than culture, as they read each other’s cues.
The “Adagio sostenuto” movement took whatever breath was left in the Hall, with solo flute and solo piano at one, to such an extent, that, at one point, Lang Lang signaled the flutist with his left hand, while he played with his right. Conductor, pianist, and flutist were in a surreal realm. Lang Lang, for visual effect, holds one finger poised above the keyboard, before he clearly plays one solo note. The “Allegro scherzando” final movement combined the first movement orchestral themes with wild keyboard abandon, as Maestro Ling leaped and jumped with the ravishing rhythms and tempestuous tones. Lang Lang’s solos were vivacious and vibrant, while he was visually embracing the momentum. Lang Lang played a pre-arranged encore with the Symphony, a complex “Happy Birthday”, for a major donor of the orchestra. The audience was entertained, as it stood for Lang Lang and then intermission.
The Prokofiev Fifth Symphony is filled with quotes from his ballet scores, “Cinderella”, Romeo and Juliet”, and “Prodigal Son”. The “Andante” first movement illustrated the boldness and bellicosity of this youthful orchestra, with hints of “Romeo and Juliet” in the opening theme. In fact, balletic elements abound, but with expansive instrumentalism. The “Allegro moderato” second movement opens with frantic dramatization, as Maestro Ling dances along with his baton, expressively pointing to targeted musicians, moment to moment. Soon the orchestra takes the theme in a new direction, with clear quotes from “Cinderella” ballet. The “Adagio” adds mystical atonality, quoting more notes from “Romeo and Juliet” and “Prodigal Son”, or so it seemed. Maestro Ling was a one-man Greek Chorus, leading the searing sonority from his podium, with floating, fleeting strings. The “Allegro giocoso” final movement began seamlessly from the third, with wood blocks clicking like a clock, another quote from “Cinderella”. Woodwinds and strings turned lyrical and spiritual, with reduced orchestrations, but the finale was explosive.
Maestro Ling treated the New York audience to a bit of Bernstein, from his “Candide”. It was performed with effusive pulse. Kudos to the San Diego Symphony, kudos to Lang Lang, and kudos to Maestro Jahja Ling.
Jahja Ling Conducts the San Diego Symphony
Courtesy of David Hartig