Chicago Philharmonic presents eclectic American-Russian program

Mon Nov 14, 2011 at 8:35 am

By Sam Lopata

“Chicago, Randolph Street at Night” by Fred Korth, 1930s.

Violinist-conductor Joel Smirnoff led the Chicago Philharmonic in an attractive if eclectic program at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall Sunday evening.  Within the short expanse of the evening, the audience was treated to the quintessential “American” sound of Copland, the exciting and controversial melodies of Shostakovich, and the luxuriant Romanticism of Tchaikovsky.

Opening the evening was Aaron Copland’s Quiet City. Scored for English horn, trumpet and strings, the work was composed as incidental music to Irwin Shaw’s play of the same name. Copland’s composition has since become a welcome addition to the concert repertoire while the play for which it was written never made it out of previews.

The Philharmonic created a sensitive cityscape against which trumpeter Charles Geyer’s silvery tone stood out as a call of strength before fading into the desolation that Copland outlined.  Judith Zunamon Lewis’s English horn wonderfully acted the part of the stark echo adding further dimension to the narrative.

The first half of the program concluded with Dmitri Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 1. In Shostakovich’s first keyboard concerto, the pianist is forced to share some of the spotlight with a trumpet as it provides interjections, most prominently in the fourth movement.

Pianist Meng-Chieh Liu clearly possesses the virtuosity and strength of tone this music requires, but he and trumpeter Geyer at times appeared to have different interpretations as to what this piece should be.  From the first rapid descending scale, Liu’s extreme tempo shifts sometimes impeded forward momentum particularly in the fourth movement where slower sections dragged and then were snapped up to appropriate speed. Geyer’s trumpet, however, provided concise and lively exclamations.

The evening concluded with Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings.  Under Smirnoff’s theatrical conducting, the ensemble instantly displayed their passion for this piece from the tender, full-bodied introduction of the first movement and the lushness of the ensuing ebb and flow.

The waltz of the second movement was charmingly executed while still reveling in the strong Romanticism of the work.  The reprise of the main theme in the final movement effectively brought the work full circle with the same ardor rendered in the initial statement.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Chicago Philharmonic presents eclectic American-Russian program”

  1. Posted Nov 15, 2011 at 5:31 pm by Judith Zunamon LEWIS

    To: Sam Lopata

    Thank you for your kind words…glad you enjoyed the performance!

    Best regards,

    Judith Zunamon Lewis

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