i’m not sure if there was a specific ah-hah moment for the beavs that sparked its torrid obsession with the oregon symphony, but monday, december 8th, 2008, around 8:21 p.m. is a definite contender. ‘twas an all-tchaikovsky program and a piano player named stephen hough had just begun tearing into something called “concerto number two” for the crowd. dear god: the piano looked like it was made by lexus, the performer looked as though he might have an aneurism, and the band looked like some well-attired army able to conquer any score you put on their stands. and the music that night? oh my. let’s just say that before mr. pyotr tchaikovsky’s music entered into my soul, life was pretty much a joyless, uninspired, and tepid affair.
monday, may 14th, 2012, around 9:07 p.m. or so, a packed schnitzer was treated to another tchaikovsky piano concerto – this time ‘round his famous numero uno, performed by arnaldo cohen who returned to p-town after festively knocking out all 5 Beethoven concertos in 3 days time 2 seasons ago. oh my, the excitement was palpable as professor cohen marched onstage to warm applause, his coattails fluttering behind him [check it, ms. arnold]. and then, ka-boom: swelling strings and a pounding keyboard kicked off the work as a shocking wave of instant recognition swept over us all… i daresay only Beethoven’s fifth symphony trumps this intro in terms of popularity. after a brief soak in a warm, melodic cliché, the opening movement barreled on for 20 more minutes (!) in a fantastically rich display of pianistic fireworks, including this insane gershwin-on-acid solo riff. ol’ beavey’s totes favorite moment of the night? seconds before the climactic finale of this epic first movement, the stately mr. cohen briefly held onto the corners of the bench, tugged out his shirt cuffs, and pushed up his glasses, discreetly readying himself before unleashing a rapid-fire torrent of brubeckian block chords in a dramatic culmination that was 100% tchaikovsky. (it’s a good thing arnaldo has the biggest hands i have ever seen. seriously.) wowee ~ we clapped without reservation after the the first movement, i tell you what! we were happy. we knew it. sometimes, convention can just eff off.