The new season of the Austin Symphony Orchestra got underway this past weekend at the Long Center, with a bit of Wagner, a sprightly bit of Weber, and the famed left hand of pianist Leon Fleisher.
Fleisher, still sturdy at 85, took the stage for Prokofiev’s "Piano Concerto No. 4," a piano concerto written for the left hand alone.
Fleisher of course has had a remarkable career after losing the use of two fingers in his right hand fifty years ago. He famously continued his career with the left hand, until a decade ago, when he regained the use of his right hand after receiving, of all things, Botox injections.
The Prokofiev concerto is a dazzling, unsettling work, one that gallops along and then pulls the reins, to brood darkly. The lack of a melodic anchor makes it perhaps a little unlovable (it went unplayed during the composer’s lifetime) but the concerto is certainly never dull. Fleisher’s version was extremely energetic and quick and at times an almost jazzy color seemed to emerge.
Fleisher’s encore was, as he said, with a grin, "as unlike anything on the programme as is possible." It was a lovely, melodic arrangement of Jerome Kern’s "All the Things You Are."
The ASO under conductor Peter Bay sounded refreshed after its summer break. The opener from Weber’s opera "Oberon" was a vibrant beginning.
Wager wrote such commanding and lush music for orchestra and there is no substitute for hearing it performed live. And if you don’t have three days to hear his entire "Ring Cycle," a series of excerpts is always worthwhile.
The ASO sounded fantastic throughout, especially the brass and woodwinds. French horn parts were beautifully clear.