Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony
February 4, 2012 7:30 pm → Great Hall, GBPAC, Cedar Falls
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Timothy Andres provides memorable evening of music with WCFSO
by Scott Cawelti
Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
February 7, 2012
On Saturday, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony Orchestra provided an exhilarating and disturbing program, like a beautiful painting of an ugly object. Well, that’s exaggerated, but you get the idea.
Pianist Timothy Andres, who’s all of 27, provided the most memorable moments. Andres makes his living as a composer and concert pianist, and has received rave reviews for his 2010 CD, Shy and Mighty. He’s been playing the piano and composing for 20 years – since he was 7 – and has bachelor and masters degrees in music from Yale University.
So he’s more than qualified to offer world-class compositions and performances. That’s just what he did on Saturday night, beginning with Bathtub Shrine, a piece he composed to sound good in a notoriously terrible hall at Yale. With no overlapping harmonies or dissonances to turn it into a chaotic mess in an echo-filled auditorium, it was in fact a clean, elegiac piece. It had the feel of an acoustic experiment more than an exploration of a powerful musical idea, but was still well-worth hearing.
Then Andres himself took the stage as a pianist, playing Mozart, or at least one-half of Mozart. He played Mozart’s ‘Coronation’ Concerto, which certainly had the Mozart sound- the tuneful melodies and sweet harmonies mixed with gentle jolts and turns at every cadence. Yet that was only the right hand part. Mozart wrote this piano concerto without a left hand part, leaving the pianist to improvise half the composition.
Andres didn’t try to play his version of the left hand part in the style of Mozart. Instead, he composed the left-handed part just as he wished – a strange mix of classical and postmodern, with odd dissonances, rhythms, and arpeggios rolling out of the piano’s lower registers under Mozart’s restrained melodies and rhythms in the upper registers. It was, at times, downright disturbing.
Though at times it felt a bit forced and over-the-top, most listeners loved it, and responded with a standing ovation. Kudos to this brash young composer for not being intimidated by Mozart and making it at least half his own. Mozart would have loved it, or at least appreciated the humor and chutzpah of it.
No doubt, Andres is a superb pianist. He played an encore that was just exquisite – a piano transcription of a Mahler symphonic movement. ‘Timo’ doesn’t just play the piano, he commands it. Huge without being just loud, precision without mere fussiness, power without being forced. We shall hear more from and about Timothy Andres.
The orchestra finished the evening with Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 in D minor. What a fine piece – high-energy, joyous, and all but non-stop, giving players barely time to catch their breath. A fine, even memorable night of music, in spite of – or maybe because of – its disturbing moments.
Note: All reviews are edited for spelling and length