United States Elgar, Britten, Rachmaninoff: Kirill Gerstein (pianist), Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra / Karina Canellakis (conductor), Music Hall, Cincinnati, OH. 4.1.2019. (RDA)
Rachmaninoff – Piano Concerto No.3
Britten – ‘Four Sea Interludes’ from Peter Grimes
Elgar – In the South
Kirill Gerstein must have been born to play Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto. Notoriously treacherous for pianists, it demands agility, enormous strength, unflagging energy through forty minutes of pianistic hurdles, musicality, and a sense of the poetic. Most of all, it calls for technique that allows the interpreter to plow through an obstacle course with a clear mind and a warm heart, along with complete concentration on what the music is saying rather than on how fast or how loud it says it.
It requires an artist like the 39-year old Russian-born Gerstein. In the composer’s version on YouTube, one can easily understand how Rachmaninoff meant this blockbuster to sound – and Gerstein gave exactly that kind of reading. From on high, Rachmaninoff must have been looking down on the stage of Cincinnati’s Music Hall, beaming with satisfaction at his fellow countryman.
Among many fast-rising young conductors, Karina Canellakis stands out as a candidate for stardom. She made an impeccable partner for Gerstein and led the CSO with assurance and attention.
In the second half, Canellakis led Britten’s ‘Four Sea Interludes’ from Peter Grimes with vibrancy and acute sensitivity, alternating fury and calm. Describing an English fishing village, the interludes’ scope and orchestration are broad and muscular.
Canellakis closed with Elgar’s In the South, a large-scale concert overture with the size and heft of a tone poem. The composer wrote it during a sojourn in the Italian Riviera, and the score is filled with magical, impassioned insights. In a richly colorful reading, the orchestra’s principal viola delivered a beautifully played solo, and the hardworking brass section triumphed.
Rafael de Acha