June 19, 2018
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BSO gives dynamic first-half in Rachmaninoff program

Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN
By Emily Burnham, BDN Staff

Never let it be said that Bangor Symphony Orchestra audiences aren’t generous with their appreciation. The talented young Croatian pianist Martina Filjak richly deserved the standing ovation given to her after her masterful interpretation of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Her performance at Sunday’s BSO concert — appropriately titled Romantic Rachmaninoff — at the Collins Center for the Arts at the University of Maine, led by Maestro Lucas Richman, was yet another entry in the long list of inspiring, memorable solo performances on the BSO stage.

The dark, sweeping romanticism of the concerto is familiar to many, whether or not they realize it’s Rachmaninoff. The haunting theme introduced in the first movement has been heard in countless other forms, both classical and nonclassical, and Filjak imbued it with a fiery, virtuosic passion that filled the concert hall with emotion. Richman appears to have settled into a comfortable repartee with his orchestra, which exhibited an impressive level of dynamic control over the big ideas presented in the music.

The rapturous response to Filjak’s performance brought her out for an encore, in which she performed “Prelude for the Left Hand Only,” a brief but beautiful piece by Alexander Scriabin that, as its name suggests, is performed using only the left hand. It was a lovely, touching reminder that sometimes the best moments in a given concert are the ones that aren’t totally planned.

The concert began with a light, lyrical performance of Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise,” a piece originally written for vocal accompaniment, but here presented in its orchestral version. It ended with another Russian selection, Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major, one of the last works the great composer ever wrote, and a tribute to the eventual victory of Allied forces in World War II.

Despite its triumphant nature, the Prokofiev began to lose steam by the second movement, and by the third movement the brooding dissonance began to take its toll. A lively showing in the finale movement brought back some energy, but overall it felt like a rather draggy exercise in Slavic emoting, book-ended by two exciting performances. Fortunately, the dynamism of the first half of the concert outweighed the second half.

The BSO’s next performance, an Orchestral Showcase, is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday, March 13, at the Collins Center.

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