[Casa Magazine] A French Valentine Plays Brahms
By Daniel Kepl, Casa Magazine
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The mood was contagious, the goodwill between audience, orchestra, and soloist, palpable. The Granada Theatre was full and bubbling with energy last Saturday, as the Santa BArbara Symphony presented the first of its Valentine weekend pair of concerts, on of the most satisfying programs of 2013-2014 on several levels. Flush with Valetine weekend romance and conviviality, the crowd was more than ready for the heavily Romantic program of Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Elgar and Ravel, whihc was nicely planned to generate peaks of excitement and at least one collective sigh.
Wasting no time, conductor Nir Kabaretti gave the eager audience their Valentine present up-front: French pianist Helene Grimaud, playing Brahms' monumental Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15, which occupied the entire first half of the program. Traditionally performed in a rather muscular manner - the turf of big hands and large bodies - Grimaud, who has neither, approached the concerto a little more romantically, and not just in honor of the occassion. Grimaud's playing of the outer movements was authoritative, but edged with thoughtfulness, the slow movement was nearly disassociative, and gently mystical in Grimaud's interpretation. Amber would describe her sound during that movement. Throughout the concerto, Grimaud's was a wonderfully fresh approach to a titantic war-horse of the piano repertoire.
After intermission were a selection of works so perfectly suited to the occassion, it's hard not to blush. Tchaikovsky's Fantasy Overture Romeo and Juliet, whose tune has been immortalized in soudn and celluloid; Elgar's Salut d'Amour, Op. 12, an unadulterated idyll, and to cap the concert with a rush, Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe, Suite No. 2. From its opening wind rustlings in Daybreak, through Pantomine and the thrilling General Dance, Daphnis et Chloe was performed by the Santa Barbara Symphony with solid virtuosity.