It’s difficult not to imagine water during the evening’s introductory piece, Liadov‘s The Enchanted Lake. It somehow shimmers and ripples, and I can understand why Kahane wanted to give his favorite piece by a lesser known composer some attention.
The pianist for the main attraction, Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2, is a twenty year-old Van Cliburn Competition winner, Joyce Yang. She is not at all showy. She sits down and lets the music do the talking while she is consumed in it. This music, which debuted only months after Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, caused almost as much uproar in Pavlovsk as Stravinsky did in Paris. Other than making use of some dissonance, though, I find it an entirely different experience to listen to. The images churned up by the piano and orchestra are juggernauts to me – giant machines and violent battles. Between these clashes softer passages reach out to we human listeners to remind us that these are inevitable parts of our experience, painful as they be. And even in the pain there is beauty. I found myself extremely moved by the piece.
Even after the intermission I wasn’t quite ready for Tchaikovsky’s Sixth and final Symphony. I let myself drift through it. Sometimes the themes of love, disappointment, and death reached through to me, and other times the music carried me through my own daydreams of rock climbs and autumn hikes.