Last night, the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Zinman with a solo performance by the famed Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt, delved into the works of three separate composers including Schoenberg’s Five Pieces, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat major and Also Sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 by Strauss.
The evening began with Schoenberg’s, Five Pieces, which he wrote in 1909. Three years passed before Schoenberg was persuaded by his publisher to provide brief titles to the five pieces: Premonitions” (No. 1), Things Past” (No. 2), Colors (No. 3), Peripeteia (No. 4), and The Obbligato Recitative (No. 5).
Altogether the NSO’s performance of the short Five Pieces gave off a forlorn, soulful feeling, sometimes quiet, sometimes gentle, keeping me waiting for something else of a more springy nature to come but it never did. It just wasn’t that kind of piece.
Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt was the star of the NSO’s evening.
She played Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat major together with the symphony, for its second piece. This piece was a joint piano and orchestra work composed in 1786, and it was first performed by the National Symphony Orchestra in 1963, with the pianist Jose Iturbi. It most recently was performed by Christian Zacharias, conducting from the keyboard in 2002.
Fast forward 12 years. Hewitt, whose career started at the age of three, arrived at The Kennedy Center most well known for her Bach recordings that she began in 1994 and finished in 2005. These recordings include all of the major keyboard works of J.S. Bach.
However, her performance of Mozart this evening was lively, upbeat, performed in tandem with the orchestra, and showed off her decades of highly developed musical talent which she takes around the world.
The final piece of the evening, Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 3 by Strauss, was the most moving and compelling. If Hewitt’s performance was spectacular, sweet and often soft, filled with high notes that danced alongside the symphony, Strauss’ piece was almost more heavy and dramatic, filled with piccolos, flutes, oboes, English horn, clarinets, and bassoons.
What made the evening unique was the selection of the three composers, all vastly different, all vastly trying to communicate a different theme.
The world famous pianist Hewitt was a joy to listen to, compelling in her own, sweet way, with fingers dancing up and down the piano. But my favorite was the final piece, for it was the most intense and demanding.
Running Time: About 90 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.
National Symphony Orchestra: David Zinman, conductor: Angela Hewitt, piano, plays Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22 / Works by R. Strauss & Schoenberg was performed on October 9, 2014 at The Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall-2700 F Street, NS, in Washington, DC. The concert has performances tonight, Ocotber 10, 2014 and tomorrow night, October 11, 2014, both beginning at 8 PM. For tickets, call (800) 444-1324, or 202-467-4600, or purchase them online.