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Wednesday, April 28,2010

LSO takes the Fifth

Chopin, Beethoven finish symphony season

by Lawrence Cosentino
You can’t bring down the curtain harder than
Beethoven did in his Fifth Symphony, which will be the Lansing
Symphony’s season closer Tuesday night.

Those final chords just keep on coming, as if Beethoven were stomping on a wasp to make sure it’s dead.


But a big symphony requires a big ending, maestro Tim Muffitt said. It’s a matter of proportion.


“The
piece needs that much finality because of everything that happened
before it,” Muffitt said. “There’s a reason why it’s probably the most
famous piece of music ever.”


Before
Beethoven, most symphonies were glorified dance cards — ah, here’s the
minuet, my dear. After Beethoven, those little dance movements
ballooned into the
Seven Ages of Man. Beethoven’s Fifth dives straight into the fire of
inner struggle, beginning with that awesome opening shudder.


“It’s a new way of thinking about the unfolding of time,” the maestro explained. “He was moving music to a new scale.”


The freighted  Fifth will be balanced Tuesday by a post-modern romp, “Too Hot Toccata,” from an airbreathing composer, Aaron Jay Kernis, and the sparkling Second Piano Concerto of Frederic Chopin.

It
would be hard to find an artist who relates more closely to the music
he’s playing than Ivan Moshchuk, Tuesday’s soloist, and the Chopin
concerto.

“He was only 19 when he wrote it, and I’m 19,” Moshchuk said. “He had a lot of hope for his life, and a lot of ambition.”


Moshchuk is one of two pianists who received this year’s Gilmore Young Artist award, given every two years.


The
artists get a $15,000 grant, a commission for a new solo piano work,
and a slew of solo and concerto gigs as part of the Gilmore Festival, a
biennial keyboard blowout centered in Kalamazoo.


Moshchuk
"is a gifted young musician with the mind to unravel the density of
Rachmaninoff’s Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor and the fingers and
wrists to realize it," noted Grand Rapids Press critic Jeffrey
Kaczmarczyk in a review of last Saturday’s recital in Grand Rapids.


Moshchuk’s
family came to Grosse Pointe Farms when he was 4. He first took up the
keyboard to emulate his brother, Alexander, 10 years his senior.


“I
have always looked up to him, and he supports me in every way,”
Moshchuk said. Alexander is flying in from the West Coast to see his
brother’s first two Gilmore Festival recitals.


Not
one to slack off in anything — he’s reading “War and Peace” right now —
Moshchuk is tearing off steaming chunks of Beethoven, Busoni, Scriabin
and Rachmaninov for the recitals.


“I feel like what I play chooses me,” he said.


Unlike
many bloody classical cockfights, the Gilmore award is non-competitive:
Contestants are not told they’re in the running until they win. “It was
a complete shock,” Moshchuk said.


Out of 24 pianists who have gotten the award so far, Moshchuk is only the second Michigan resident. This year’s other honoree is Charlie Albright of Centralia, Wash.


The Gilmore awards and
festival have a growing international cachet. National names like New
Yorker critic Alex Ross and jazz legends Cedar Walton and Fred Hersch
are taking part this year.


Muffitt said he’s never met Moshchuk, but is completely satisfied with the “Gilmore pedigree.”


The maestro plans to
give Moshchuk his head for a concerto that’s “entirely piano-driven”
and calls for a lot of flexibility from the orchestra.


“But that’s part of the fun,” Muffitt said. “I love communicating
with another musician on that level — taking the ebb from the soloist
and giving the flow back to the orchestra.”


Moshchuk likes the
concerto’s pastoral bits, including a storm, in the second movement,
and finds humor, even sarcasm, in the third.


“It’s pretty
well-documented he drew his inspiration from his love for a singer he
met at school,” Moshchuk said. “It was one of the happier times in his
life.”


Pushing the topic of affinity between composer and soloist, it’s tempting to ask whether Moshchuk has a muse.


“That’s a very profound question,” he said after two rounds of coy laughter. “I definitely have my own sources of inspiration.”


“Sources,” plural? He must be referring to “War and Peace.”




Lansing
Symphony Orchestra


Ivan Moshchuk, piano 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 4 Wharton Center
Cobb Great Hall $12-$45 (800) WHARTON


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