bucking the usual order of things, the soloist showcase was saved for after intermission. [as you already know from diligently reading (and re-reading) the classical beaver interviews, pianist william wolfram was a last-minute pinch hitter for the originally scheduled guy who has a case of mono… i once thought i had mono for an entire year – it turned out i was just really bored.] the stately mr. wolfram strode onto the stage looking like a distinguished actor, with not only vim, but a fair amount of vigor as well. taking his place at the piano bench ready to tackle mozart’s 24th concerto, wolfram seemed to be psyching himself up for a dark and brooding performance, bowing so low during the orchestra’s intro it looked to me as though his forehead was touching the keyboard. there was good reason: the piece is a rarity from the usually light and joyful wolfgang, set in a tragic minor key (c minor, for those of you keeping score at home) and sounding quite Beethovian. moreover, our soloist reminded me of a jazzman at times (perhaps brad mehldau or keith jarrett?), varying how loud/soft/fast/slow he was playing, deftly weaving in and out of the band’s more consistent volume – one minute the obvious leader and the next minute a subtle accompaniment to the orchestral melody. maestro carlos also dipped into personal reserves of sturm-und-drang, his feet leaving the podium multiple times with such force i could hear the rebound from row p. bottom line: this was not your father’s mozart. don’t get me wrong: there was certainly a healthy dose of (seemingly) effortless trills, cascading scales running up and down the ivories, and playful exchanges between various musicians that were performed brilliantly. several times i sat in wonder as our concertmaster jun, with the eyes of a hawk, peered over wolfram’s shoulder in order to give the entire string posse cues from across the stage. and what a posse! as usual, nancy and marilyn beamed as they led trevor and the rest of the impeccable cellos, while jason and his cohort of bassists plucked passionately. the crowd who got to hear the world premiere back in ’86 were probably a bit bewildered by this composition… the crowd who got to hear the latest cover this weekend was unambiguous and exuberant in their standing ovation.
after julie (the band’s trusty librarian) placed the final score on the podium, carlos entered once last time to end the night with a hellish bang: the mephisto waltz by franz liszt. btw, i don’t know what it is about this fiddle-playing-demon archetype that we humans love so much, but it sure is fun. really for the only time during the concert, the band was cranked up and playing in fifth gear – charles on trombone and játtik on tuba got to blast us away, and even jennifer got to rock out on the harp. things got a little weird as peter, fumino, ron, shin, and the rest of team violin somehow transformed themselves into a mob of demonic putti, highlighting some kick-ass solo work by mephistopheles iwasaki. honestly, if jun is the devil, i’m glad i’m going to hell.