My first introduction to classical music came at the tender age five thanks to Charles Schultz and his Peanuts cartoon “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown.” Schroeder and his toy piano gave me my first glimpse into the classics by playing Beethoven’s ‘Fur Elise.’ That kid can play anything on a toy piano and in return gave me an incredible appreciation for melody and composition. Piano music and the Peanuts series have been my favorites ever since. From there I graduated to the ‘Pathetic Sonata,” Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Four Seasons,’ Chopin and of course Beethoven’s famous Fifth Symphony. I was always surrounded by all genres of music. Being the child of a professional musician it’s basically a prerequisite. Ask any shrink and I’m sure they’ll tell you that’s one of the major reasons music is so important in my life.
Admittedly I was not really familiar with Mussorgsky’s “Pictures At An Exhibition.” I’m sure at some point in my life I had heard the piece either in segments or its entirety. But if you would have asked me to identity it I would have looked at you like a deer in headlights. I’m a true blue rocker folks. Though I have a love for classical music unless it a composition as famous as “Fur Elise,’ or Beethoven’s ‘Fifth,’ I couldn’t correctly tell you the titles if my life depended on it. All of that being said, I was really looking forward to experiencing the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra with Maestro Pavel Kogan and violinist Jennifer Koh. Yes, I do enjoy the solo violin also. After this concert, ‘Pictures At An Exhibition,’ will be a piece of music I won’t soon forget.
The concert began with Tchaikovsky’s ‘Capriccio Italien, Op. 45,’ with Maestro Kogan at the helm. It is one of the composers more vibrant and electric works. It is essentially when translated a travel diary of the composer’s Italian vacation which climax’s at a carnival in Rome. It is an amazing piece of music that incorporates every musical instrument in the ensemble including cymbals, triangle, harp, glockenspiel and tambourine. The melody is beautiful with its whimsical sensibility and a few Spanish rhythms thrown in for good measure. Kogan himself a master with the violin shows where his true gift lies as a symphony conductor. He is animated, focused and a joy to watch. I have a feeling the next time I am doing work around the house I may be playing classical music and conducting the pots and pans with whatever instrument is at my disposal. Much the same as Mickey Mouse conducting the water buckets in ‘Fantasia’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.’ Honestly, I’m sure we’ve all conducted our own symphonies from time to time in the privacy of our own home. Just make sure your curtains are closed and the neighbors can’t see. They just may not understand. Kogan was inspiring.
Jennifer Koh takes the stage for Max Bruch’s ‘Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26.’ It is a beautifully romantic and sensual piece of music. All three movements ‘Prelude: Allegro moderato,’ ‘Adagio,’ and ‘Finale: Allegro energico,’ showcases Koh’s gently subtle touch and is a wonder to the ears. It’s no wonder she is known all over the world as an incredible virtuoso. She has the ability to take the audience on her journey through this piece of music and makes our experience sensual, playful and amazingly personal. While she is playing all the emotions of the piece are shown on her face. It’s almost as if one could read the music just by her expressions. She smiles at the whimsical passages; her face becomes stern almost hurtful when the music becomes more intense. A true musical artist bares their soul when playing a great piece of music, a work of art. Jennifer Koh can be named one of the masters of this craft. Her performance was truly inspiring and touching to the heart.
From the onset of “Pictures,” ‘Promenade,’ through its various 10 movement, all was more imaginative and picturesque than the previous. Maestro Kogan commanded the orchestra with incredible ease and mastery. The Moscow State Symphony Orchestra plays with passion and great vigor. It was truly an amazing performance and one that shouldn’t be missed. Even if you’re not a classical music efficionato this is a wonderful introduction.