From November 26-28, 2010, Houston Symphony presented Tableaux d’une exposition (Pictures at an Exhibition), composed by Modest Mussorgsky in 1874, and orchestrated by Maurice Ravel in 1922.
The concerts featured the Houston Symphony premiere of guest conductor Susanna Mälkki, and pianist Stephen Hough performing the Piano Concerto in A minor, Opus 16, composed in 1868 by Edvard Grieg.
The first piece was another Ravel composition, Le tombeau de Couperin, which was a delightful musical aperitif to start the proceedings, with a smaller, chamber orchestra size grouping, conducted with a lively yet delicate touch by Susanna Mälkki, featuring clarinets, woodwinds and harp in the Prélude; a light and gracefully flowing combination of strings, oboe and flute in the Forlane; followed by a more somber and measured yet still liquid string ensemble in the Menuet; finishing with an energetic brass entry in the Rigaudon, featuring various staccato accents from the brass, flutes, clarinets, and ending with a strong oboe voice.
It is always a delight to hear Edvard Grieg played exuberantly with full orchestration, and that is exactly what was enjoyed during the following Piano Concerto. Classic Grieg. Marvelous to hear with full orchestra, and a great soloist in Stephen Hough. He played one of the great piano themes with magnificent dexterity, which built gradually, further and further, until the big final buildup to its familiar, loud and dramatic finish. Gloriously conducted by Ms. Mälkki, and triumphantly executed by Mr. Hough, who after an enthusiastic ovation by the audience, signed CDs in the lobby during the intermission.
After the intermission came the main event of the concert, Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky/Ravel. Once again the full orchestration continued with all hands on board for another classic, familiar main theme, which was performed in beautiful, majestic, flowing style by Ms. Mälkki and the Houston Symphony. It is a wonderful, colorful piece, with great dynamic range, which creates animated visuals in the imagination around the pictures it thematically represents in each varied movement. It is a wild, rollercoaster ride of a symphony, which was performed with big, vibrant, bright energy, which builds and builds, to its inevitable huge, splashy, grand finish. Wow!
What an exciting, great concert. And another fun, fun, fun, musical excursion with the Houston Symphony!
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