5.16.2010

Austin Symphony / Christopher O'Riley : 4 of 5

For the final concert of this year's season, the Austin Symphony chose to go out with both the huge spectacle of Mahler's Symphony No. 1, as well as the classical perfection of Mozart's final piano concerto with guest pianist Christopher O'Riley. The concert opened with Mahler's Blumine, which was actually the original second movement of his first symphony (discarded soon after a few performances), but now stands on its own as a beautiful short piece. Since I had read a little about Symphony No. 1 and the various edits that Mahler did, I was glad to be able to hear this movement (without re-inserting it into the symphony against the composer's wishes). Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 27 was next, and the sound was unmistakably pure Mozart, filled with his "laughing" flourishes and excelling in the restrictions of the classic forms of his day. Christopher O'Riley was a joy to watch as his hands effortlessly glided over the piano, and after the huge applause he was kind enough to play a few bonus pieces, which happened to be piano interpretations of modern Radiohead songs! This was totally unexpected and unique, especially since he announced one of the songs was in 23/8 meter (making it fun for a drummer like me to count during the performance!). Finally, the stage was completely filled with over 100 musicians for Mahler's huge symphony, and the experience was incredible! After the uncanny Star Trek opening (maybe the theme song ripped off Mahler!), the first movement began to grow and blast its triumphant fanfare over the audience. I loved the eerie third movement with its minor version of Frere Jacques (starting with solo double-bass by one of my favorite players) and otherworldly Klezmer band segments, but the final movement was undeniably the best with its huge dramatic themes. This was the first time for me to experience a piece with two tympanists, eight French horns (often playing with fun sounding mutes), and the sense of anticipation as the whole orchestra prepared to explode was completely tangible. I'm happy to live in a city with a talented orchestra and to have pals like Matt & Kumiko to appreciate the arts with, and I'm really looking forward to the next season!

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