cello shots – part II

tchaikovsky had a soft spot for mozart.  so when the russian drama queen began composing a show-off piece for the cello in 1876, he rather naturally turned back the clock and fashioned his variations on a rococo theme with late 18th-century elegance in mind.  from first note to last, the mood is delightfully carefree as the soloist riffs on a single melody, transforming the tune again and again with increasingly elaborate virtuosity.  monday night at the schnitz, the cellist occupying the hotseat was none other than *alban gerhardt returning to rip city for a second consecutive season – this time as the oregon symphony’s very first artist-in-residence.  good god: mr. gerhardt was most definitely in da’ house alright, captivating the slack-jawed crowd with an unlikely combination of decorative flourish and deceptively simple expression.  after uncle pyotr’s very brief orchestral introduction, the band politely faded into the background and generously allowed alban’s abilities to shine.  powerless to take my beady little eyes off the german phenom, the beav’s focus kept shifting from herr gerhardt’s left-handed fingerings to his right-handed bowings and back again, gripped by the intricacy of movement.  oh yes, the physical mechanics of his music-making were spectacle enough.  [how does he get his pinky to do that?! how does he barely drag his bow and still fill the hall with sound?!]  what perplexed this rodent more than anything, however, was the instrument’s rich, warmly quivering voice.  how does a cello sing such a song?  how do wood and string speak directly to a soul?  the questions, and the song, thankfully linger on.

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