The curtain raiser of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s concert this week was
a short contemporary piece, Torque (2009), by Canadian Gary Kulesha (b. 1954).
Consisting mainly of rhythms, percussion instruments and fragmentary melodic
motifs that do not add up to melodies, it was an effective eye-opener for those
who perhaps had not yet fully woken up after their afternoon siesta.
Wang, the Chinese soloist of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3, is an
outstanding piano phenomenon. The initial surprise was her exquisitely soft
touch right at the start – and in a Rachmaninov work, of all things. After this
delicate opening, the next surprise was the fragile-looking pianist’s stormy
vehemence of the subsequent typically Rachmaninovian turbulence in the work’s
first, and particularly, final movements.
After these elemental
outbursts, no less surprising was the playful facility of the work’s lighter
passages and the brilliant virtuosity and precision of its technically demanding
episodes. Another surprise was the maturity of this 24-year-old artist’s
rendition of the work’s lyrical sections. This performance was an enormously
In Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances, Canadian
conductor Peter Oundjian emerged as a master of rhythm. He electrified the
orchestra and, through it. the audience, with split-second accurate dotted and
syncopated rhythms, waltz lilts and also, unexpectedly, some regular four-beat
ones. He also excelled in eliciting abundant instrumental tone colors from solos
and orchestral tutti. That the composer missed some convenient opportunities to
finish this longish work before he eventually did is, of course, not the
After all, he only chose the work, not