April 03, 2020

DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR? Rach out with the BSO

The first time I heard Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, I was a 13-year-old pianist, and I figured nothing more beautiful had ever been written in the history of the world. Alexandre Moutouzkine beat me by five years. He heard Rachmaninoff at 8. And the effect was even more profound. Moutouzkine, now 27, will perform the Rach 3 at the Bangor Symphony Orchestra’s season-opening concert at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8, at the Maine Center for the Arts in Orono. “This is a very special piece,” said the Russian native, who first per-formed the work last year with BSO Maestro Xiao-Lu Li. “It’s the whole life of Rachmaninoff. He left Russia at 21. So there is incredible nostalgia, pain and emotional suffering.” It’s like ’70s rock balladeer Eric Carmen said about his hit song “All By Myself” (based on Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 2). “Being miserable is a great catalyst for songwriting.” But don’t be misled by stormy de-scriptions. The great Russian romantic also expresses ten-derness, joy and even humor in this moody work. When Moutouskine plays those first plaintive notes, think of the piano as the protagonist in a novel you just can’t put down. Follow the story through three movements. Listen to other voices (aka: the orchestra) ca-vorting with our hero. The Rach 3, written in 1909 and premiered in New York City, is a love story, a tragedy, a bildungsroman. But it’s better than books on tape because your imagination fills in the faces and dialogue. Picture a bird soaring or a couple danc-ing or your mother. You may hear the anguish of an artist made melancholy by political persecution. Then again, maybe you’re just obsessed with the blur of fingers at the piano. And if the Rachmaninoff isn’t Russian enough for you, the program also includes Modest Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain” and Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov’s “Russian Easter Overture.”

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