Had my second outing of the year to Ravinia last night(the Midwestern Tanglewood and summer home of the CSO for you unicoastal people). The first excursion included the exquisite Pinchas Zukerman playing Mozart and a bang up Mahler 5 (incidentally, the same thing I saw the last time I was at Ravinia the summer after sophomore year in college). But last night was unfortunately a little underwhelming.
One Olga Kern was the soloist for the Rachmaninoff, a huge sentimental favorite of mine. No doubt, she created some marvelous colors in the softer moments, nailing that sort of cavalier melancholy that runs throughout. But there were serious power problems in the fire n' brimstone sections, and that's really sort of a prerequisite for a good showing, no? The Rachmaninoff piano needs to cut through the strings like Brunnhilde through a 150-piece pit--no matter how nice your tone, the effect just doesn't work if the balance isn't right.
The Rachmaninoff was paired with the woefully uninspired choice of Rimsky Korsakov's Scheherezade suite. I mean seriously. You have an hour of Russian orchestral music to program and the best you can come up with is some kitsch showpiece? The Rachmaninoff isn't crowd pleaser enough? Not to hate on the symphony and its need to program for the stodgy, but this is one of those pieces that really ought to be retired to 33's with minaret drawings on the jacket. Sure, that theme is pretty the first 10 times. But after that its just torture. Look alive, CSO.
On an unrelated note, a coworker alerted me to a nice interview with Beverly Sills replayed on Fresh Air here.