Prokofiev (Symphony No. 5) and Ravel (Piano Concerto in G Major) were featured at the TSO "Afterworks" series last week. Music Director Peter Oundijan chose the pieces to play on the same evening because both are "big, late Romantic works, despite the occasional dissonance and angularity of the writing... They have a remarkable sweep that places them squarely in the Romantic traditional."
I get as much pleasure seeing the symphony as listening to the music.
The Ravel brought the Grand Piano to centre stage. Massive and gleaming, it was played by pianist Louis Lortie. Born in Canada, he teaches in Italy, lives in Berlin and maintains a home in Canada. When the Grand Piano is played by such a master it is truly a privilege to see and hear.
Prokovief's symphony was very dramatic with strong demands on the percussion section - I think I counted 7 seats - four huge timpani as well as the bass drum, snares, and cymbals.
Tom Allan hosted the evening and told some interesting back stories about the composers.
- Ravel was such a fuss budget he brought something like 20 pairs of pajamas and 54 ties along for a two month American tour. When he arrived he found his ties were about one inch too long for the U.S. fashion so he immediately had each one hand-shortened (the attention to detail is obviously a valuable trait in a composer but he probably wasn't much fun to live with!)
- Prokofiev returned to Russia and the rule of Stalin because he was homesick. The role of the composer was highly valued in this regime - to the extent that when cities were under siege the composers were placed under guard and taken to camps to produce. This particular Opus was written in the same camp Stravinsky was staying. I wonder if they felt like prisoners of war?
Utterly relaxing evening, I felt like I'd taken a holiday in the middle of the week.