Saturday, November 5, 2022

Orchestra Hall, Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, Woodward Avenue, Detroit, Michigan

The talking point was Daniil Trifonov newly tackling Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto, of which more anon. Opening the concert was William Grant Still’s Festive Overture, tuneful and colourful enough, although a quicker and livelier performance might have made more of a case for it. After which, Florence Price’s Symphony No.1, the current craze for her music once again demonstrating that there really isn’t very much to get excited about, isolated moments aside. Jader Bignamini and the DSO gave a fine account, but as it had been with the Philadelphia Orchestra in Berlin,, so it was in Detroit, a tedious work that seems far longer than it is.

Trifonov playing a mighty Concerto held the biggest interest. However, an adagio treatment of the opening horn solo, Trifonov very deliberate with his first contribution (as if practising at home), the orchestral continuation hamstrung by a lethargic tempo, Trifonov returning to claw away at the notes. Pedestrian. Brahms’s music done a disservice. Bewilderingly dogged throughout the first movement, here lasting twenty minutes. (For once the Detroit audience didn’t clap.) By contrast, the second movement was on the quick side, lacking weight (the piano did anyway) and its appassionato quotient; notable woodwind contributions though, and excellent cello (Wei Yu) and oboe solos to launch the slow movement – slow being the word, Trifonov indulgent at first, close to comatose, then somewhat impassioned before stasis again set in. The Finale fared better, perky and buoyant, quite gracious, until a gratuitous speeding up rushed us to the finishing post. (Audience cheers in abundance.)

I’m glad I stayed up for this generally ill-conceived try-out (London currently four hours ahead of Detroit) for if I were to read a review similar to this one I may not believe it. There was an encore, Wei Yu joining Trifonov for the slow movement of Chopin’s Cello Sonata, exquisite, the concert’s redeeming highlight.

Meet Robyn Bollinger, the new concertmaster of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.