Last night my wife and I celebrated our 9th anniversary (a few days early, she will be out of town on the actual day), by having an excellent dinner at Panzano, followed by a concert at the CSO featuring Andre Watts as guest erformer on the Grieg piano concerto. Even though we are both under the weather, it was a great night!
The concert opened with The Moldau by Smetana. A theme of the evening, as explained by conductor Jeffrey Kahane, was the use of music to express national pride. The orchestra gave a very good read of this piece. I'm not sure it was a great opener, there was still a lot of noise of people entering their seats as the quiet piece began.
That was followed by three pieces by Sibelius. One of course had to be Finlandia, practically the national anthem of Finland, and a favorite of audiences everywhere. I love the piece, and to me its heroic horn theme always seems like it would be patriotic no matter what country you are from. The other two pieces were Lemminkäinen’s Return and Swan of Tuonela, lesser-known but equally moving pieces.
The highlight of the concert was after the break when Andre Watts took the stage. The audience was pretty good, but the house was not sold out, somewhat odd for an artist of his stature. I'd never seen him perform live before, it was interesting. He puts all of his energy into his performing, almost to the point of seeming labored, but the music was wonderful. He has the odd habit of humming along while playing, mostly "Bum-bum-bum," which from a distance, makes him look like the Muppet Beaker while performing. He puts his whole body into the performance, including stomping his feet on the floor at climaxes. It was quite entertaining, with the Grieg concerto being a great showcase piece. My only criticism was that his technical skills were not perfect, but nonetheless he was an incredible performer. Also, even though he took three bows, he did not perform an encore.
It was a great anniversary.