The second concert of the Peninsula Music Festival series had a great beginning Thursday evening (Aug. 6) with Gioacchino Rossini’s Overture to The Barber of Seville. The light tripping familiar melodies were perfect for a summer evening, serving as a fitting appetizer for the musical main courses to follow, a night celebrating youthfulness.
Rossini composed this piece when he was 24. Edvard Grieg was 25 when he wrote his Piano Concerto in A minor; Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky created his Symphony No. 1 in G minor “Winter Dreams” when he was 26.
The highlight of the evening was pianist Pavel Gintov performing Grieg’s Piano Concerto. The piece is not only one of the composer’s most popular works, but among the piano concerti of all time that listeners most enjoy. The youthful Ukrainian soloist impressively explored the musical potential of the piece, bringing the Door Community Auditorium audience to its feet the moment the performance ended. Gintov’s keyboard skills melded fluidly with the orchestra, as his dynamics ranged from the thunderous opening of the first movement, to the delicate lyrical passages that followed in the adagio, to the rousing conclusion.
Tchaikovsky’s first symphony “Winter Dreams” reportedly caused him a great deal of turmoil during its composition, but at the same time became one of his favorites among this well-known composer’s work.
The first two movements, “Reveries of a Winter Journey” and “Land of Desolation, Land of Mists,” suggest a tone poem, with the adagio of the second seeming to conjure a placid winter landscape. The third and fourth movements, however, are not given titles linking them to a season.
While the orchestral performance of the symphony was certainly impressive and well received by the audience, for this concertgoer, the Grieg concerto proved a difficult act to follow. Nonetheless, the woodwind and brass beautifully augmented the strings in producing the color that is to be expected in Tchaikovsky’s work. The second movement, lyrical and wistful, was especially lovely. And the finale, beginning with low orchestral rumblings and simmering to a joyful boil, was delightful, a preview of Tchaikovsky’s finale to the 1812 Overture, but without the cannons!
The Peninsula Music Festival, now in its 63rd season, has aged well, as has the work of the featured composers. The “childhood memories” of the festival, now housed in a concert hall, include the stage in the Old Gym of Gibraltar High School, rows of folding chairs, raised basketball net, swaddled scoreboard, and white cedar boughs adorning windows. You’ve come a long way, baby, Peninsula Music Festival!
The nine-concert festival series continues with 7:30 pm Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday performances through Aug. 22. For information and tickets visit musicfestival.com or call 920.854.4060.