I thought Abdel-Rahman El-Bacha did a fine job with the Rachmaninoff First Piano Concerto. He capitalized on its witty ending -- perfect showmanship, I thought at that point, perfect. Delicate playing seemed to be El-Bacha's strong point (piano was his forte, haha). He knew how to use that skill to best advantage.
Shall we return to one of my favorite topics, concert finery? I thought it did justice to the romantic feel of the Rachmaninoff that El-Bacha wore the old-fashioned tie and tails. You see that so rarely these days. Watching him sit down and flip those tails over the bench, that set the stage nicely for the virtuosity that followed. Rachmaninoff epitomized the glamour of what we now call the Golden Age of Classical Music. And El-Bacha, who is Lebanese but lives in Paris, is quite a glamorous gentleman. The picture up above shows him in the exotic setting of the Roman ruins at Baalbek in Lebanon.
The Rachmaninoff First is a concerto you don't hear too often. I have gotten to know it very well and I am beginning to think it is as good as the bigger and more popular Second and Third. It has that incredibly beautiful slow movement. And it was nice of El-Bacha to favor us with more Rachmaninoff -- the G Minor Prelude -- as an encore.
News Critic Emeritus Herman Trotter's review contained a forthright assessment of "An American Place," the piece by Kenneth Fuchs that began the concert, that has sparked an intriguing discussion in the "comments" sections. Fuchs is a friend of BPO Music Director JoAnn Falletta from their days at Juilliard. Contemporary music is usually interesting in that people are often hearing it for the first time and opinions are frequently all over the map. This piece was a case in point.
Altogether, an invigorating concert.
There is so much to hash over!
-- Mary Kunz Goldman