Settling into the Low Mezzanine, Aisle H seat, I observe the couple of musicians already on stage warming up. A jam-packed concert, including a piece by Glinka, the wonderful Prokofiev Violin Concerto no.2, and Rachmaninoff’s Symphony no. 2 has yet to come. From experience, I am very excited to hear what is to come out of this energetic bunch called the Oregon Symphony.
The concert starts with a bang. Literally. The national anthem is blasted out by the melodic strings and powerful brass. The audience immediately stands up, singing the anthem with passion in tune with the orchestra, as if this has been rehearsed many times. It’s simply amazing how the power of music can bring so many people together...Next, the audience is sent right off onto an exciting adventure as Music Director and Conductor of the symphony, Maestro Carlos Kalmar kicks off the Glinka Overture to Russian and Ludmilla at a close-to-impossibly fast tempo. The orchestra members, however, are so focused, channeling all their energy into the piece, the rhythm, and the phrasing. This piece, especially when played by the Oregon Symphony, makes you smile and dance in your heart.
After finishing the first piece with an exciting end, stage hands rearrange the stage for tonight’s violin soloist, Elina Vähälä. Stepping out in a simple and beautiful blue-ish grey dress, Vähälä, settling right in comfortably begins the piece with a wonderful, clear, solo violin melody. Throughout the movement, her sound and tempo are very steady, and it is evident that she is playing with heart and integrity. I really enjoyed her pizzicatos, which were very powerful and very clear through the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. The second movement definitely had great feeling—Vähälä was very connected with the orchestra and you could feel the power of the music spreading out to the audience members. The final movement was played incredibly professionally, and was technically astonishing. Vähälä’s stage presence was amazing and the performance of this piece was definitely exciting and absolutely a memorable performance.
In the second half, the orchestra once again focuses all attention to Maestro Kalmar, and together, they begin with much seriousness the first movement of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Symphony. The piece is seamless and heart-wrenchingly beautiful. The passion of the musicians can be felt by the audience as if everyone is connected by a string of music. So many images come into mind and there is a feeling of wind—the fury, coming deep inside the composer’s mind out of the music. The second movement is so together in all aspects: bow movement, energy, and musical feeling. The piece is played so expressively and the balance is impeccable. The third movement really showcases the symphony’s great ensemble skills and discipline. And the last movement is full of energy and definitely an eye-opener. The crisp and exciting music continues until the very last note.
All in all, I was really glad to have come to this concert and hear wonderful music produced by the Oregon Symphony. The season has many more concerts to come, so make sure you come out on a weekend to hear some great music!