One would expect perfection from maestro Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and that is exactly what the audience received Monday night at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts.
The orchestra played Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 3 in D major, D. 200; Frederic Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11; and Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68.
The ebb and flow of the music brought to mind other times and places from centuries past. The orchestra played with fervor and passion, its 75-year history as an ensemble evident in the cohesiveness of the performance.
The movements were especially precise during the Brahms symphony, when the orchestra’s performance swelled in size, along with the number of musicians onstage.
The evening’s most dramatic piece had a deep, mellow tone that was at times mournful and dirgelike. Strong bass playing and thunderous timpani kept the audience enraptured during the first and fourth movements.
The fourth movement itself, which concluded the evening’s performance, was like a miniature symphony. It began softly, with the strings plucking notes reminiscent of footsteps treading lightly down a hall that grew louder and stronger until they reached a crescendo.
The orchestra was accompanied for the Chopin piano concerto by guest solo pianist Yuja Wang, who commanded attention in a royal purple gown that set her apart from the sea of black and white onstage.
Like a cowboy from the old West waiting to face his enemy in a showdown, Wang sat perfectly still, fingers ready at her side, twitching slightly until she gracefully raised her arms and began to play. Once her fingers touched the keys, the audience was mesmerized as she commanded the keyboard from end to end.
Once the piano concerto was completed, Wang treated the audience to two encore solos that showcased just how talented the 25-year-old Chinese musician really is. Her fingers flew furiously over the keyboard, at times so fast that they were just a blur, particularly as she played Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Turkish March.”
Schubert’s symphony, which opened the program, was crisp yet lilting. At times you could hear notes from individual musicians, particularly the woodwinds. At others, there was great harmony.
During the first movement, the bows of the violins, violas and cellos moved so fast and furiously over the strings, you almost expected to see smoke rising from them.
The concert, which benefited Birthright Israel and the Israel Program Center of the Jewish Federation of Las Vegas, was presented in honor of Sheldon and Dr. Miriam Adelson.REVIEW
What: Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
Where: The Smith Center for the Performing Arts