Music Review: Young pianist plays with charisma
Jim Lowe / Staff Photo
Aliza Silverstein performs Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto with the Vermont Philharmonic on Sunday at the Barre Opera House.
By Jim Lowe
BARRE — Aliza Silverstein performed the first movement of Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto as if she had been doing it all her life — yet it was her first time ever performing with an orchestra.
The 17-year-old from Hyde Park, winner of the Borowicz Memorial Scholarship, was the featured soloist with the Vermont Philharmonic on Sunday at the Barre Opera House. Music Director Lou Kosma also conducted Vermont’s oldest community orchestra in impressive performances of Wagner, Schubert and Jennifer Higdon. (The program was also presented Saturday at the Elley-Long Music Center in Colchester.)
The Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Opus 15, is one of Beethoven’s most Classical works, and although it has plenty of passion, it is devoid of the composer’s darker qualities. Silverstein, a student of Montpelier pianist Mary Jane Austin, delivered the opening Allegro con brio with a natural virtuosity and musicality and, most unusually for a young player, charisma.
Silverstein played the rapid runs with discipline, cleanly and beautifully, yet had plenty of passion for the powerful moments. While she missed some of the opportunities for subtle expansiveness, she enjoyed them thoroughly in the well-played virtuosic solo cadenza. The young musician achieved both the poetry and passion with beauty.
Kosma and the philharmonic accompanied Silverstein with sensitivity and passion, if not always precision. Classical era music demands a precision that the Romantics don’t, and the orchestra came mighty close to delivering it.
However, the major work on Sunday’s program, Schubert’s Mass No. 2 in G Major, D. 167, was performed with precision and, more importantly, musicality and joy. The Vermont Philharmonic Chorus, created and directed by Lisa Jablow, performed its best since its founding a couple of years ago. The sound was rich, warm and textured, and the expression was lyrical and beautiful.
Kosma is a particularly sensitive conductor when performing with soloists, and the Vermont Philharmonic sounded great with its chorus. The able soloists, members of the chorus, were soprano Ann Fitch, tenor Edson Gifford and bass Skip Potter.
The gem of Sunday’s concert — and perhaps the audience’s favorite — was a 21st-century work and by no means “easy listening,” Higdon’s 2000 “blue cathedral.” Opening with rich sounding cellos and chimes, the work is largely atmospheric, though there is also a brooding underlying drama. Although the harmonic language is complex, as is the percussion, the music is rich and rewarding.
Kosma and the Vermont Philharmonic not only delivered this work with precision, they made sense of it and delivered its beauty — and the audience responded with enthusiasm.
Sunday’s concert opened with Wagner’s Overture to “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.” And while the quieter passages were sometimes a bit muddy, the bombast of the brass, winds and strings sounded glorious.
The Vermont Philharmonic is achieving ever-growing audiences — as it richly deserves as perhaps Vermont’s best community orchestra.
The Vermont Philharmonic, directed by Lou Kosma, will present “The Family Concert” at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 17, joined by Bob Blais and the Green Mountain Youth Symphony. (Student art submissions are due Feb. 16; for information, go online to www.vermontphilharmonic.org.) Tickets are $15, $12 for seniors, $5 for students, $32 per family; call 476-8188 or go online to www.barreoperahouse.org.