Well, much to my chagrin, I didn't get to see the Concertgebouw on my trip to Amsterdam a few months ago, but was able to save some face tonight seeing them at the KC Concert Hall, courtesy of WPAS.
The first half was the Sibelius violin concerto with violinist Janine Jansen, and I liked it fine. That said, it was a bit domesticated. I'm listening to the Heifetz/CSO record I have of it now, and there's something sort of desperate and sad that was missing in Maestro Jansson's very beautiful and thoughtful reading. For her part, Jansen brought an exciting hard-edged tone and brilliant skill to the solo. But mostly I think I just wanted more Concertgebouw than the concerto could serve up.
The Rachmaninov Second Symphony after the break did not disappoint. So, maybe Rach Symphony II is not the most cerebral piece. Maybe, like 'Party in the USA', one could accuse it of basically being "all chorus." But as a tour calling card that makes me want to abandon my job and apartment and just go live in the sound the string section makes? Yeah, its pretty freaking good for that purpose. I mean, I'm not a huge Second Symphony connoisseur, but I just can't imagine how one plays the piece better than this. The lyric money lines, which, as mentioned, come like ever 20 bars, were time and again just pure plush brainfreeze gorgeousness.
But not cheap, you know? The Concertgebouw is able to achieve that thing it seems great orchestra string sections are able to with remarkable consistency: that sense that the lines are really 'speaking' as when played by great soloists. Mind you, I've never played in an orchestra, so the whole thing is kind of voodoo magic to me, but I know when an orchestra gets beyond the earthbound "here is the melody we are playing it nice" level and it is a magical, exhilarating sensation. Is it an absolute fidelity to phrasing across players thing? In any event, the Rachmaninov really spoke this evening, in all of its big wet earnest glory.
The encore was cheesy (if impressive). Enough of cheesy orchestra encores. Why can't they roll like pianists and come up with something in the familiar but classy/unexpected favorites vein?