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Review: San Antonio Symphony
David Hendricks - http://blogs.mysanantonio.com/weblogs/the_music_beat/2009/11/review-san-antonio-smphony.html

 If the San Antonio Symphony performed exceptionally sharply Friday night, one logical reason is that it already is intimately acquainted with the program's two composers, Ludwig van Beethoven and Sergei Prokofiev.
Four classical concerts into this season, the orchestra was performing its third Beethoven work, with one to go, and its second Prokofiev composition.
That was not the only reason, however. The brilliant soloist for the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5, Ewa Kupiec, and the energetic conducting of Sebastian Lang-Lessing contributed to a rewarding evening at the Majestic Theatre.
Kupiec established her stage presence quickly and confirmed her authority at the piano just as fast. Although she had technique to burn, even better was the way she exploited every inch of the Steinway's sonorous range, from hard and glistening to soft, warm and tender, sometimes within the same passage.
It's still difficult to believe that Beethoven composed the grand and inspired concerto when already deaf. He did so, just as surprisingly, amid the chaos of prolonged bombardment of Vienna by the French army in 1809.
Kupiec, a Polish musician who now makes her home in Munich, made the adagio sound like it accompanied a peaceful snowfall at some imagined and isolated landscape. A wonderful moment occurred as the performance shifted in an understated manner from the adagio to the concluding rondo.
It was fun to watch Kupiec's hands when she wasn't playing the piano. The progression of Beethoven's magic still visibly surged through her as the orchestra played without her. Kupiec is a jewel in the piano world.

Even with an intermission, Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet" ballet suites barged into the afterglow of the Beethoven with its playfulness, violence and despair, unfolding the Shakespearean tragedy with the composer's trademark angular melodies.
Prokofiev arranged the large-orchestra suites between 1936 and 1938 while waiting for the full ballet to have its long-delayed premiere. He simply wanted the music heard.
Lang-Lessing left nothing out the 14 theatrical episodes. The sword-edged longing and pain, the hair-raising street fight, the ache of youthful love and the spooky and ghostly specter of death flowed from the stage as easily as it must have from London's Globe Theater.
As in the Beethoven, the orchestra musicians achieved the intuitive shadings of melody and color to best advantage in the Prokofiev. The playing was vigorous and precise throughout.
Lang-Lessing, who resides in Berlin and is music director of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in Australia, easily surpassed his previous appearance with the orchestra in May, when he conducted a program of Robert Schumann, Richard Wagner and Erich Wolfgang Korngold. The tempos Friday were better, and his keen sense of dynamics hit the right spots.
About 1,600 people attended the Friday night concert. The program will be repeated at 8 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 21) at the Majestic.

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