Visiting conductor Gerhardt Zimmermann led the orchestra in performing Mozart concerto with soloist Robin Sutherland.
On Saturday, Nov. 16, the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra gave an intense performance from the works of Berlioz (1803-1869), W. A. Mozart (1756-1791) and Lutoslawski (1913-1994). From the moment the concert started until it ended, the audience was captivated by the waves of emotion that each piece offered. The eclectic program contrasted styles between movements, swelled together to form a powerful and passionate sound after each piece.
Unlike many of the concerts, the Tulsa Symphony brought in two guest artists instead of one. The first guest was Gerhardt Zimmermann, a well-respected music director for the Canton Symphony Orchestra. The other guest was Robin Sutherland, a highly acclaimed pianist from Colorado. Throughout the performance, it was clear that although they had a different perspective on how to approach the music. It was also clear that together, along with the symphony, they had a few of the same ideas and respected each other’s artistry and brought life to the pieces.
The first piece to be performed was the Overture to “Beatrice and Benedict” from Hector Berlioz’s 1962 opera, based loosely on Shakespeare’s “Much Ado about Nothing.” The piece itself was consistent with the contrasting dynamics and raging, bright sounds. There was never a dull moment in the Overture. Toward the end of the piece, the audience applauded then fell silent, anticipating the main focus of the night, the Mozart “Concerto in C Minor, K. 491.”
The Mozart concerto is striking: invoking a deep and intense sound as it explores but never strays from the minor key. This concerto is one of two concertos that Mozart did not write in D minor. “Concerto in C Minor” also indicates a contrast in Mozart’s career: as the concert notes indicate, Mozart wrote this dramatic piece during the time that he was writing the “Marriage of Figaro” (1786), a comedy about lovers.
The orchestra performed “Concerto in C Minor” with high anticipation: as soon as Sutherland entered the stage, the music started. It didn’t start in the way that it was rushed, but in the sense that all the musicians on stage had full control of the piece, hinting that the music was about to burst out of them.
The solemnity of the piece was solidified in that moment. Throughout the three movements of the concerto, the audience seemed to hold their breath. The musicality of the piano, though dainty and delicate, soared over the orchestra, reaching its full dramatic potential. Each note was more powerful than the last, creating strong phrases. The piano and the orchestra were never battling to be the loudest. Instead, it was a handoff from the piano playing with the rest of the orchestra and then as a featured solo instrument. Both guest pianist and conductor understood the concerto and brought forth their ideas to make one sound. After the audience erupted in applause, Sutherland came back and gave an encore performance.
After intermission, instead of jumping straight into the final piece, Zimmerman took time to engage with the audience, joking about how Lutoslawski’s “Concerto for Orchestra” (1954) was perfect for Tulsa, with the mosquito sounds of the violins. On a serious note, the conductor spoke about how certain things can captivate a person, such as a book or a movie, to the point where they don’t want to put it down. Zimmerman spoke of the things that have moved him, “Concerto for Orchestra” being one of them.
Zimmerman had the orchestra demonstrate segments of the different movements. The somber tone rang through the entire piece: as it indicates in the concert notes, this piece shows Lutoslawski’s mature musicality and technique through his composition style. He shows his rage towards the destruction of war, that left Europe in destitute.
Though not immediately, Zimmerman took his time with the orchestra. After a moment of silence, the orchestra exploded with sound. The intensity moved between the sections of the orchestra, but never vanished. The piece contrasted between movements (almost in a movement within a movement structure), flipping back and forth between being calm and electrifying. The conductor was right: this was a truly captivating composition.
At the end of the piece, the orchestra received a standing ovation. It’s moments like these where the barriers between the performers and audience are broken. Everyone is able to come together and appreciate and understand the composer’s (in this case, three composers’) ideas and inspirations.