Rach 3

Yesterday night, went to the symphony with Bean and heard Yefim Bronfman play the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto #3 with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic. The Rach Three, as its known, was made famous to the public at large in the movie Shine, in which a young David Helfgott goes crazy under the pressure of an oppressive father and his attempt to master this insanely difficult piano concerto. The Rach 3 is to piano concertos what Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto is to violin concertos--the most famously difficult major concerto for each instrument. Only virtuosos need apply. The first few violinists who attempted to play the Tchaikovsky actually found it too difficult.
I love Rachmaninoff's piano concertos. They're grand, unabashedly romantic and lyrical, which is also the reason many dislike them. Actually, his second piano concerto is more lyrical than the third--it just doesn't have a movie about it to back it up. But most fans of classical piano know and love it.
As I watched Bronfman sweat as his fingers pounded the keyboard of the Steinway grand, the music conveyed much of what I felt sitting there in that seat at that moment. Work is supremely challenging right now, so I could sympathize with Bronfman trying to master all the notes while still conveying the emotional theme. Listen to it sometime and see how you feel--that's how I felt yesterday when I was sitting there.
The symphony also played the Shostakovich Symphony #5, which is the most famous of his fifteen symphonies. Program notes point out that the symphony was well-received by Stalin, who had put Shostakovich under a lot of heat for his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk for its criticism of the Communist government. Ironically, the fifth symphony was a blatant critique of Stalin's regime, but the dictator was too musically dense to notice it and appreciated its Russian pomp and circumstance. I hope if I ever ascend to a position of power that I'm bright enough to recognize satire in all forms.
You wouldn't think Seattle has a large Russian population, but every one seems to come out every year to hear whichever Russian orchestra visits Benaroya Hall. They love their native musicians, too. Always lots of standing ovations, too many to count, and the night concluded with two encores, movements from Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.
It reminded me of a concert I attended in New York several years ago. I was in Manhattan on a business trip with Jason, and during my time off I looked up my friend Hanh, and with some free time I realized that Vladimir Spivakov was in town with Russian National Orchestra. That night the orchestra played the Shostakovich Symphony #5, and Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. Spivakov himself played the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, and as an encore, he played this solo on the violin, a slow piece, unbelievably beautiful. To this day, I wonder what that piece was. Hanh wanted to know as well, but no one could place it.
If anyone knows, please let me know.