If ever there was a two-headed person with three hands, that was what we in a sold-out audience saw and heard at tonight’s stunning Hawaii Symphony Orchestra concert with JoAnn Falletta, conductor. It was absolutely phenomenal! That was my reaction to tonight’s concert with Lang Lang and his 15-year-old protégé, Maxim Lando—their ensemble was so incredibly perfect and dynamics and rhythm perfectly in sync—I’ve never heard two people play with such precision and nuance.
You see, Lang Lang injured his left hand by overpractice and his doctor prescribed complete rest—that was nearly a year ago and the tendinitis has been healing more slowly than expected. Although Lang Lang did use his left hand occasionally, there were so many added notes and harmonics that one could hardly believe that all those notes were played by only two people and three hands! The good news is that Lang Lang plans to resume full use of his left hand by July of this year.
Maxim can certainly look forward to a stellar career—in fact his bio in the program was as long if not longer than Lang Lang’s! Both of his parents are musicians, and he grew up from birth in a music school. He has played the Rachmaninoff 3rd Concerto in St. Petersburg, Russia, and other solo appearances in Moscow, Munich, Beijing, Chicago, Paris, and at Carnegie Hall in New York numerous times. I was thinking that this young man must be having the time of his life, touring with Lang Lang—and he’s only 15 years old!
On the scheduled program was Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition on the first half, then the two pianists played “Aquarium” from The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns, “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from The Nutcracker by Peter Tchaikovsky, then “America,” from West Side Story of Leonard Bernstein.
One funny thing happened during the Nutcracker performance—the music had been photocopied and taped together in long sheets. At one point the music started falling forward only to be saved by the quick bow of concertmaster Iggy Jang, preventing it from falling onto the keyboard in just the nick of time!
The concert closed with an absolutely brilliant and exciting rendition of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and I was left completely breathless. The audience immediately leaped to its feet and we were treated to an encore, Chopin’s “Minute Waltz.”
Two things about tonight’s concert program made this a truly memorable event: The first was a heartfelt and emotional performance of Edward Elgar’s Nimrod in memory of long-time bassoonist Paul Barrett who died of pancreatic cancer on February 1. Read his bio here. Oboe principal Scott Janusch said Paul had played in this orchestra for 40 years and will be remembered for his fine musicianship, teaching, and for his sense of humor and grace during his illness. His wife, violinist Judy Barrett, who played in our Bach Chamber Orchestra for 20 years, sat in her usual chair behind the concertmaster. I was thinking she would have taken a break from the orchestra during this mourning period—imagine how difficult it must have been to get through this music—in fact I saw several of the players wiping away tears. As requested, no applause followed Nimrod—we were told to think of Paul.
However, I also thought about pianist Beebe Freitas, whose death was announced just yesterday. As one of Hawaii’s living treasures, Beebe was a giant in this musical community. I will write a complete post about her later.
The other unusual thing about this concert was that there was a lion dance at the end of intermission, in celebration of Chinese New Year and Lang Lang’s appearance in Hawaii. What fun!