The focus in the local classical music scene this last weekend was the double appearance of Cliburn competitor Di Wu, who was one of the six finalists in this year's competition. Wu appeared twice on the Lane Series: At UVM's Redstone Recital Hall on Nov. 6 she gave a solo recital and another, Nov. ,7 with the Burlington Chamber Orchestra under the baton of composer/conductor Michael Hopkins.
Technically this young pianist is gifted far beyond many of her peers. Her control of the softness or climactic almost pounding and their application of the appropriate touch and volume seemed to be absolute and the news gets better: She knows how to use her technique in the service of the music. She gave a pre-concert talk before the Friday night concert, and the main thrust of her talk was to explain her attitude towards music and the performance of it and what was most important during this recreation of the composer's wishes. She said technical mistakes are not so important but misunderstandings of a composer's music as evidenced most frequently in the markings that the composer has put into the score are terribly important shortcomings. This is certainly something with which I am in full agreement.
Di Wu has both the technical ability and the musical vision to become one of the leading pianists of her generation.
Friday night's program included works by both Robert and Clara Schumann in the first half and in the second half works by Maurice Ravel (one of her favorite composers) and a transcription by Franz Liszt of the Kermesse from Gounod's opera, Faust.
She played the mazurka from the Soir es Musicales, Opus 6of Clara Schumann's and followed it without a pause by the Davidsbundelertanze, Opus 6, the first movement of which Robert had given to her as a mark of his devotion. The composition was completed after they were married, and it proclaims two separate types, marking the store as F. and E., the F. being the more outgoing and vivid boat metrically and volume wise, and the E. being more introspective. She did a brilliant job of contrasting these two points of view, and received an acknowledgment from the audience members, who applauded happily.
Wu had stated earlier that Maurice Ravel was one of her especially favorite composers, and her performance of Miroirs (Mirrors) was a model of contrasts from the night-flying insects of Noctuelles to the most familiar of the pieces, Alborada del gracioso , a piece that Ravel orchestrated. Her technique gave her full musical control in her performance of this work.
She closed the concert with Liszt's transcription of the waltzes from the Kermesse scene from Faust by Charles Gounod. The contrast in this rather overblown work is between the waltzes sung by the chorus and the meeting between Marguerite and Faust. The propulsive drive of the waltzes stood in sharp contrast to the lyricism of the dialogue between the two principles. It was a brilliant performance musically and technically.
On Saturday evening, Wu played the piano Concerto no. 2, op. 19 with The Burlington Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Michael Hopkins. The concerto was performed by the soloist and the ensemble with attention to detail, a dialogue that really reflected the views of both participants (counting the orchestra as a single entity). The adagio movement was a model of bel canto, a beautiful and sensitive lyrical playing of long connected line that the soloist spun seemingly endlessly. The angularity of the third movement was delightful: sharp, well-drawn and propulsive. The first movement too and plenty of brio. The performance was a wonderful example of reciprocal dialoguing, where statement and answer are coherent and the music rolls along happily.
Thank heavens for the Piano Consortium whose members make it possible for us to be able to hear artists of the stature of Di Wu.
The chamber orchestra showed their expertise in the Concerto Grosso Opus 6, no. 10. Their playing especially of the third allegro movement was exemplary. They also played one of Mendelssohn's youthful string symphonies.
Thank heavens for the BCO. Now in their third year, they are once again proving to be a formidable group of musicians and thank heavens for those community members who support them financially. We are in its debt.
Burlington resident Dan Wolfe observes and critiques the local arts scene for The Eagle. His column appears weekly.