Rozhdestvensky, Williamson – CSO

I didn’t get to attend last weekend’s CSO concerts featuring an all-Shostakovich program led by the great Russian conductor, Gennady Rozhdestvensky. As mentioned previously, Rozhdestvensky was kind enough to stay for an extra couple of days to take over for Riccardo Muti’s scheduled concerts, and yesterday evening was the first of those concerts. The program had a slight modification – instead of Ligeti’s Ramifications to open the night, the program instead had Sibelius’ Rakastava.

The two main pieces of the night were Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, performed by CSO principal clarinet, Stephen Williamson (his solo debut with CSO), and Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings. Williamson, despite a tiny mishap at the beginning of the Adagio, was fantastic – he played, especially in the Adagio, with a beautiful tone and color rendering the entire hall silent: all marveling in the clarity and quality of his sound. His performance also made one appreciate how incredibly difficult the clarinet is – something one does not always notice when the clarinets are playing in an ensemble. During intermission, Williamson was greeted by a hoard of fans and supporters – all eagerly awaiting to congratulate him on his debut.

The other highlight of the night was Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, featuring the great strings of the CSO and Rozhdestvensky’s legendary command of Tchaikovsky’s music. I’ve always loved waltz music, enjoying composers like Johann Strauss II and Franz Lehar, and the CSO strings were definitely spot on for the second movement waltz of Tchaikovsky’s work. Under Rozhdestvensky’s baton, there was a clear illustration of the graceful and lush melodies of Tchaikovsky. There was some premature applause from the audience right before the finale, which was really awkward and elicited some dismayed looks from the musicians, but nevertheless, the concert was fun and resulted in an extended standing ovation from the audience – all grateful for Rozhdestvensky’s extended stay in Chicago to cover for our music director.

After the concert, I got to go backstage and meet Maestro Rozhdestvensky – he signed my program! I asked him and his wife (pianist Viktoria Postnikova) about Monday’s opening night performance of Der Rosenkavalier, and they thoroughly enjoyed it! Rave reviews from the two Russian musicians, which was nice to hear! 😀

I’m looking forward to next Monday’s open rehearsal, which Rozhdestvensky has also agreed to lead, and next Thursday’s CSO concert featuring Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck and soloist/CSO concertmaster Robert Chen. And if I can squeeze it into my schedule (lots of midterms next week unfortunately), but I’ll try and make it to one of Philip Glass’ events on the UChicago campus.

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