Saturday, February 07, 2009

Giancarlo Guerrero

Normally I would title a review of the Symphony with the works performed, but last night it was all about the conductor.

Guerrero may be the most entertaining conductor I have ever seen. In the opening piece, Rossini's Barber of Seville, it's hard enough to listen to the piece without imagining Bugs Bunny giving Elmer Fudd a scalp massage, but with Guerrero's histrionics it was impossible to keep from laughing. He frequently bounced with the music (literally) and at one point conducted on one leg - with the other leg sticking straight out into the air for several measures. He reminds me a bit of LA's new conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, who has brought much excitement to orchestral performances, and apparently Guererro has done the same in Nashville where he has taken over their orchestra.

I wondered how he would do on the Mozart Violin Concerto No. 4 (one of Mozart's lesser works), which clearly is about the soloist Cho-Liang Lin, not the conductor, and Guerrero quite wisely tamed down quite a bit. Lin did well, although he was clearly off at the beginning of the 1st and 2nd movements, but quickly found his pitch and rhythm quite well. If there were any criticism of his playing as a whole, his tone sounded a bit scratchy, and I wonder if he was having trouble with his bow; he never looked quite comfortable.

The highlight of the evening was a rousing performance of the Tchaikovsky Symphony #4, one of my favorite pieces. Guerrero did not let me down, choosing exciting (envelope-pushing) tempi in all movements, and entertaining throughout, especially in the martial 4th movement, where at one point he was doing the frug (humping the air in front of him) while building to a huge climax (so to speak), and at another point he crouched down about a foot above the floor for about a minute.

Most impressive was the pizzicato third movement. I've heard this piece performed several times live (Tchaikovsky is one of the reasons I fell in love with orchestral music). The third movement is often looked down upon because it sounds a little like "Holiday for Strings," but in fact it is technically challenging and quite beautiful in its own way. Guererro picked a very fast and difficult tempo for the strings, but they played it absolutely impeccably, better than I have ever heard it before, and that includes the BSO and the LA Phil, two world-class orchestras.

I can't wait to see Guererro conduct again. He brought a new level of excitement to the podium and, for better or for worse, everyone was talking about him after the performance.
Post a Comment