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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 3, No. 2 October 1997

Carl von Weber: Euryanthe Overture
Tchaikowsky: Piano Concerto No. 1
Beethoven: Symphony No. 6
Montreal Symphony Orchestra
Cecile Licad, piano
Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, conductor
Sept. 24, 1997

The Euryanthe Overture felt like a short, light, warm-up with a particularly well-played Largo which grew from eight violins to encompass most of the strings. Pianist Cecile Licad gave an inconsistent performance of the Tchaikowsky concerto. Her opening chords rang with resolute passion, but when she took the theme twenty bars later, it was with almost nervous haste. This was remedied somewhat in later sections, but many of the rhythms seemed a little forced. Her major stylistic problem was a lack of sufficient dynamic contrast. In several sections marked "pianissimo", her playing was more "mezzo-forte". There were also a few missed notes in the famous quadruple-octave passage in the first movement. This could have been due to the frenetic tempo Skrowaczewski set, which made the MSOís 1987 recording of this piece under Charles Dutoit seem sedate by comparison. At slower tempos, Licadís lyric abilities shone. This was particularly true in the "quasi adagio" toward the end of the first movement and in the delicacies of the "Andantino". Licad showed off both poetry and power in the final movementís schizophrenic leaps between poignant reminiscence and pounding Ukranian folk melodies. She made the most of the loud sections, particularly the solo immediately preceding the conclusion; her calmer moments were sweeter than before but still lacked tenderness.

Stanislow Skrowaczewski and the orchestra were at their best for the eveningís final piece. Mr. Skrowaczewski had full control from the first note, leading the orchestra in an unusually rubato opening. The warmth and tenderness of every theme in the first movement truly matched the written description Beethoven left in his diary: "Almighty God in the wood! I am happy, filled with joy in the wood...." The beauty of the "brookside" movement, its drifting 12/8 time and rapturous thematic warmth, was heightened by a wonderfully languid interpretation. After the bird calls which brought this delicate movement to a close, an energetic peasant dance possessed the strings, which Mr. Skrowaczewski led in increasingly exuberant rhythms. The "Thunderstorm" movement was convincing in its power, leading directly to the orchestraís best moment. Skrowaczewski brought out a warmth of tone and richness of development which made the final movement the best. Following the rustic themes, the sunny tremolo chords in the strings cast a golden glow over the scene and a soft horn reveille brought the performance to a satisfying close. Jonah Lynch .

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