By Paul Hyde: September 28, 2015
Pianist Andrew von Oeyen’s sparkling account of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major provided an appropriately festive opening to the Greenville Symphony’s 2015-16 season this past weekend.
The relatively short, jazz-inflected concerto served as a brisk appetizer to the main course of Rachmaninoff’s meaty Second Symphony, conducted by Edvard Tchivzhel with gusto and heartfelt romanticism.
Von Oeyen, 35, last heard in Greenville in a captivating 2010 performance of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2, dashed off the frenzied scampering passages of Ravel’s concerto with ease and chiseled clarity.
Von Oeyen, performing on a characterful, bright-sounded piano provided by Upstate residents Debra and Tom Strange, played the concerto’s driving rhythms in the first movement with bite and ample power.
Yet he also brought a nuanced, poetic sensibility to bear on the wistful second movement.
The concerto spotlighted some fine solo work by several Greenville Symphony musicians, including principal bassoonist Amy Yang Hazlett, who deftly delivered the demanding virtuoso bit for bassoon in the third movement.
For his encore Saturday, von Oeyen chose not a pianistic dazzler but rather the glowing “Meditation” from Jules Massenet’s opera “Thais.” Performing his own piano transcription, von Oeyen rendered the work with fluidity and tender introspection.
Tchivzhel’s sweeping interpretation of Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony, which followed in the second half of the program, was everything one could hope for.
The Greenville Symphony’s conductor, of course, has a special affinity for Russian works, which he conducts with rhapsodic, crowd-pleasing fervor. The orchestra’s musicians most often respond magnificently, as they did this past weekend.
Tchivzhel shaped the symphony, beloved for its rich array of melodies, with a keen sense of its dramatic potential, eliciting plenty of oomph and fire from the brass and percussion.
He drew sumptuous playing from the strings throughout the work and perhaps most memorably in the familiar third movement, with its soaring main theme that is one of the glories of the concert hall.
The long, pensive clarinet solo in the third movement was beautiful played by principal clarinetist Anthony Marotta.
The finale, built on a speedy tarantella theme, brought the work to a blazing conclusion — with the energetic, charismatic Tchivzhel seeming almost to levitate above the podium during its last pages.