The Pacific Symphony’s intelligently planned first concert of 2019—Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain, Chopin’s First Piano Concerto, and Prokofiev’s Seventh Symphony—was the perfect cleanser for any lingering holiday staleness. It was vividly played, insightfully conducted by guest David Danzmayr, and in Gabriela Martinez showcased a soloist who drew from the Segerstrom’s Steinway sounds that were an ideal blend of clarity and warmth.
When Ms. Martinez finally entered I did feel her opening solo statement in octaves of the first subject (Chopin in 1830 sticking to the Classical precedent of a second exposition led by the soloist) to be slightly underpowered—not quite the fortissimo he asks for. But then the crystalline beauty of her fingerwork was immediately in such exquisite contrast to the richness of the preceding orchestral tutti that to object would be churlish.
Throughout the performance, indeed, the most notable characteristic of her playing was a mellifluous songfulness that in the first movement really came into its own in the long passages where Chopin dwells on his second subject so much that it seems as if he cannot bear to leave it. Fine playing from first horn Keith Popejoy and principal bassoon Rose Corrigan of the passages where they counterpoint the piano line underlined how skillfully and sensitively Chopin could write for other instruments, and indeed the many felicities in the PSO’s fine account made me regret that Chopin composed so few works for orchestra.
This is an excerpt from the full review, which you can read on David J. Brown’s blog, LA Opus.