reviews

Reviews

New York

Washington

Post 1999 May

Philadelphia

Boston

Flagstaff

Hudson Valley

Anchorage

Utah

Featured Review

"...It’s not often that soloists of the caliber of pianist Garrick Ohlsson are eclipsed by purely orchestral performances on the same program. But last night in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, the National Symphony Orchestra’s readings of Richard Strauss’s “Death and Transfiguration” and Haydn’s “Trauersymphonie” under the skillful direction of Randall Craig Fleischer did exactly that...."

 

The NSO’s Sheer Brillance

by Mark Carrington

 

It’s not often that soloists of the caliber of Garrick Ohlsson are eclipsed by purely orchestral performances on the same program. But last night in the Kennedy center Concert Hall, the National Symphony Orchestra’s readings of Richard Strauss’s “Death and Transfiguration” and Haydn’s “Trauersymphonie” under the skillful direction of Randall Craig Fleischer did exactly that. The same could happen again in repeat performances tomorrow and Tuesday.

 

Which is not to say that Ohlsson failed to put up a good show. He may be the pianistic equivalent of the Fastest Gun in the West - he came out with both barrels blazing at the start of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in F-Sharp Minor. It is hard to imagine faster double octaves or more dazzling chromatic passagework. But no amount of incendiary ammunition could save Ohlsson from a score that, while brilliant and, yes, touching with its billowing clouds of sound in the slow movement, is ultimately vapid. One might rarely hear so many notes used by a composer put to such little use.

 

The Allegro con brio of the Haydn piece, by contrast, was a divine effusion - a torrent of sound balanced perfectly the by correctly reduced forces of the NSO. Fleischer brought out exactly the right amount of grace and polish to the first movement and soothing repose to the third with ornamentations that melted and instrumental lines that seduced with their subtlety.

 

The motifs from “Death and Transfiguration” are still ringing in this reviewer’s ears. I have never seen Fleischer conduct so convincingly or the NSO, under his direction, give so much. For concertgoers unfamiliar with the work, I can think of no better introduction; for those who know it well, prepare to be astounded afresh.