October 9, 2021
By W. Gerald Cochran, M.D
Marvelous…And that was just after the opening chord of Richard Wagner’s (1813-1883) Prelude to Die Meistersinger performed by the Western Piedmont Symphony in the P. E. Monroe Auditorium of Lenoir-Rhyne University on Saturday, October 9, 2021 under the direction of Maestro Matthew Troy. Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg was the only comic opera that Wagner composed and dealt with a young singer in a competition for voice and for a woman. After that first wonderous chord, the rest of the performance was just as grand, with the brass and woodwinds, along with the strings, sounding about the best that I have heard them.
Following this spectacular opening came an even more spectacular performance of the Piano Concert No. 1 in E-flat by Franz Liszt (1811-1886), who, by the way, was Wagner’s father-in-law. Soloist for this performance was Bryan Wallick, who is currently Assistant Professor of Music at Colorado State University. He has had a wide performance career with many of the great orchestras of the United States and Europe. Historically, this concerto changed piano playing forever, creating sounds and forms heretofore never heard. It is both technically challenging and tenderly romantic and captures the entire range of what piano playing was to become. Mr. Wallick’s performance was virtuosic and passionate, displaying his, and Liszt’s, great talent for pianistic expression.
Miklos Rozsa (1907-1995) was, like Liszt, Hungarian. He was a prolific composer of film music, for which he had several Academy Award nominations, including for the Suite from “Double Indemnity,” which was performed tonight. This is a sordid film of murder, conspiracy, deception and betrayal. Once again, the orchestra was in splendid form, displaying all of the rich drama of the score.
Closing the program was one of Leonard Bernstein’s (1918-1990) most famous works, Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story.” This incorporates all of the well-known songs from the Broadway show, and requires a virtuosic performance from all members of the orchestra. The performance did not disappoint. The strings, all of them, the woodwinds, brass, and percussion were all in top form, and provided an exceptional, and inspired, performance. One could sense the passion and electricity that the orchestra had in this rousing presentation. I can hardly wait to see what the rest of the season portends. I am certain that it will nothing short of extraordinary.