Olga Kern Triumphs with Tchaikovsky

Colorado Symphony under the direction of Principal Guest Conductor Douglas Boyd Open their Masterworks Season with Olga Kern and Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1

Tchaikovsky's Waltz and Polonaise from Eugene Onégin & Beethoven's Fifth Symphony Open the first half of the concert

A nearly packed house was thrilled with Colorado Symphony's Friday Night Concert. The thunderous applause at the end for Olga Kern's stunning performance of Tchiakovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 made the opening half of the concert almost seem like a warm-up for the main attraction. And that's saying something considering one of the world's most popular pieces, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, closed the first half of the concert. Colorado Symphony under the baton on Douglas Boyd, Principal Guest Conductor did an excellent performance of Beethoven; it's just that Olga brought her game and she can play!!!

The opening of the Tchaikovsky is immediately recognizable with the hammering chord that climb the keyboard again and again. But the music quickly glides into moments of grace, where Olga's style and elegance really shine. Tchaikovsky also has those beautiful lyric melodies so well suited for Olga Kern and her command of the keyboard. From power to polish, the music sifted through the full range of emotions with each one captured perfectly on the piano.

The second movement opened with the new flautist Brook Ellen Shoenwald showing what a alluring addition she makes to the Colorado Symphony. Silver Ainomäe, Principal Cellist, also shared the limelight with Olga with a brief cello-piano duet. Still, it was Olga's night, highlight her every talent, from spider-like fingers that wove a web of sound, to the shimmering accompaniment behind the orchestra's dance. Whether it was the power of hands, or the grace and innate understanding of the musical style, Olga truly triumphed with her performance of Tchaikovsky tonight.

Douglas Boyd adroitly maneuvered the orchestra to accompany Olga Kern's every move. As Olga finished the cadenza the piano seemed to drift away while the flutes melted in from underneath. Later, in one of Olga's more powerful moments she finished off with a blistering battering of the keys and Maestro Boyd brought the orchestra in blazing away. The transitions were seamless, as if Olga and Douglas were of a single moment, communing as one in the music.

Although it may seem a bit anti-climatic, and out of order to speak of the first have of the concert now. Still, it was part of the evening and a solid performance by the Colorado Symphony.

Beyond the traditional "Star Spangled Banner," (which had the crowd singing along), the concert opened with Tchaikovsky's Waltz & Polonaise from Eugene Onégin. These are immediately recognizable pieces and still Douglas Boyd brought a fresh life to them. The Waltz was filled with the full range of dynamics showing off the dexterity the musicians have with their instruments. Douglas was lively at the podium coaxing every shift and sway as the Tchaikovsky glided through the hall.

Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is a power house. The opening movement is so recognizable it's difficult to try and instill something new to the music. Yet Colorado Symphony did. Douglas Boyd was extremely expressive with his use of the full dynamic range of the orchestra bringing them to a barely audible whisper to the blazing brash of the trombones with the final movement. As the piece came to a close the tempo was bright and brilliant bringing the momentum and energy of the music to the breaking point. And the players responded without any hesitation. It's as if Douglas was leading them to a cliff at full speed and they never once applied the brakes.

What they did was bring the audience to their feet. Boettcher Concert Hall had barely stopped reverberative from the music when the audience was showing their appreciation. From the rafters to the foot of the stage, the audience was thrilled with the performance. The Colorado Symphony could have ended the program right there. But there was still Olga...

It's almost a shame to have such a wonderful opening first half, what could have been the closing performance of any concert, only to have it topped with Olga Kern and Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in the second half. Jim Palermo said before the concert began this was going to be an amazing season. If they keep up this level of performance, it will be a season unlike any they've ever had.


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