NSO delivers a showstopping Chopin, with a hand from pianist Jan Lisiecki


“Flip that factor off!” growled a really perturbed man someplace entrance orchestra left — a extremely sudden addition to the opening horn solo of Franz von Suppé’s 1865 overture to “Die schöne Galathée.”

I hadn’t heard the “factor” in query — and I’ve my suspicions that the scolded could merely have been consulting, as inspired, the night’s digital program. However the viewers craned their necks like a flock of startled storks on the admonishment. A big disruption in service of disrupting a smaller one. That’s some good irony. Within the spirit of the vacation, I dubbed him “The Quiet Man” in my pocket book.

If visitor conductor (and Omaha Symphony music director) Thomas Wilkins heard the skirmish, he didn’t let on. As has been the case at any time when I’ve seen him visitor with the Nationwide Symphony Orchestra, he introduced piston-esque precision and financial system of gesture to the rostrum, holding the orchestra tightly coiled and able to strike — a posture required by this explicit overture.

Von Suppé’s opera relies on a barely twisted imaginative and prescient of the Pygmalion fantasy by Kohl von Kohlenegg. It opens with a rollicking wake-up name of a tutti however narrows and wends its method via lush woodwind groves (the flutes and oboes Thursday night time appeared to take pleasure in a selected sheen), meadows of watercolor strings, sharp crags of back-straightening brass and a gently swooning waltz that doesn’t take lengthy to swing wildly out of hand. A number of instances I discovered myself wishing for greater low frequencies, extra grounding, however the rapids of this overture have a method of whooshing one previous such issues.

The night’s centerpiece and fundamental attraction was Frédéric Chopin’s first piano concerto of 1830, performed by Polish Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki. The 26-year-old phenom has been on a recording streak of late, his most up-to-date providing on Deutsche Grammophon a double album of Chopin’s full nocturnes. And the acute sensitivity he’s delivered to his recordings made it to the stage totally intact.

At first, I wasn’t positive Lisiecki and the orchestra had been a match — he entered with all of the subtlety of the Kool-Support Man. Then I spotted that was simply Chopin being Chopin, who wrote solely two concertos and who reserved many of the timbral adventurism for the soloist — i.e. himself.

Lisiecki’s closeness with Chopin permits him to channel the composer’s flash with out counting on flashiness. He is aware of tips on how to type the notes, play with their phonetics and form their edges. However he additionally is aware of tips on how to cooperate and pay attention. Lisiecki’s real affection for the composer is seen: When he’d hand off to the orchestra, he’d swivel round to look at them, as if ready for a cherished one to return.

Oh, and proper across the finish of the primary motion, one other uninvited smartphone solo. This time somebody’s voice mailbox bleating directions, via speakerphone, from the very entrance of the corridor, for a very good two, possibly three seconds. Sorry youngsters, however I’m pulling this factor over …

Have you ever ever gone to the ballet and hopped onstage to do cartwheels? Ever finger-painted on a canvas on the Nationwide Portrait Gallery? Ever rip the pages out of a guide whereas somebody’s studying it? No? Oh, would that be ruining every little thing for everybody? Attention-grabbing. As The Quiet Man as soon as growled (although in all probability shouldn’t have): Flip that factor off!

And let you know what, as a result of I’m right here, for probably the most half, to assist: When you merely can’t work out tips on how to silence your cellphone (it’s a swap — a single very clearly positioned swap), simply swing by seat M-1 and I’ll do it for you. Alternatively, I’ve an honest arm and the Potomac is inside attain. Now, the place was I?

Ah sure, the second motion — a tender-textured “Romanze” marked larghetto — shaded by strings and illuminated by glowing horns. All through, Lisiecki reveled in Chopin’s proto-pointillist element. A grasp of sharp punctuation, Lisiecki additionally is aware of tips on how to knead the keyboard to impart a cloudy softness to the composer’s extra fleet-fingered passages. (Underneath the unsuitable fingers, they’ll bloom right into a spiky bramble.)

And Wilkins constructed the third motion from its one-two-three punch right into a stirring showcase of Lisiecki and Chopin — the previous masterfully dealing with the harmonic slalom of the rondo’s foothills, the latter in all probability golf-clapping from on excessive. The remainder of us, in the meantime, stood for 3 ovations.

Closing this system was Paul Hindemith’s “Symphony: Mathis der Maler (Matthias the Painter).” Composed between 1933 and 1935, it’s a piece extracted from his opera of the identical identify, based mostly on German Renaissance painter Matthias Grünewald’s panels for the Isenheim Altarpiece.

The primary motion — the “Engelkonzert (Angelic Live performance)” — was a superb begin, gorgeously formed in brass by Wilkins, who constructed a gleaming tower of horns, underlined by lucid flutes and oboes. It was within the second and third actions the place issues grew to become a bit extra of a problem. The galloping brass within the second motion, “Grablegung (Entombment),” felt at instances extra like a stampede. An identical wrestle beset the third motion, “Versuchung des heiligen Antonius (The Temptation of Saint Anthony)” — the enjoying throughout the orchestra was greater than superb, however the sonics had been off, the strings overwhelmed from behind. This can be a explicit disgrace for a symphony that wicks teakettle tensions from frequencies which are steadily misplaced.

That mentioned, these qualms might merely be symptomatic of the corridor, which tends towards throwing brass additional exhausting. Or it may very well be an element of the symphony, which deliberately flings itself right into a forest of nightmarish terrors from which to emerge. And, on reflection, this hit-or-miss Hindemith would possibly merely have been a matter of programmatic distinction — its fearsome bombast an odd neighbor for Chopin, even when separated by a 15-minute intermission.

However the symphony’s remaining moments — a gripping sequence of volcanic fanfares that scatter the opera’s darkness — answered any questions I used to be forming about Wilkins’s deal with on Hindemith. A panoramic view awaited on the peak of this uneasy hike, and he efficiently obtained us there. And never a ringtone to be heard.

Thomas Wilkins and Jan Lisiecki repeats Saturday on the Kennedy Heart. kennedy-center.org.

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