To pop open the San Antonio Symphony’s 2017-18 classical series, Music Director Sebastian Lang-Lessing circled back to audience favorites, in both music and the guest artist.
Pianist Olga Kern has performed in San Antonio several times since 2001, the year she was the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition gold medal co-winner. She performed here most recently last year.
So with all that history, how did it go Friday night at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts? Certainly, everyone on stage was prepared. The performance was polished to the hilt. Kern was in gold-medal form, if not better; her technique diamond sharp. She squeezed every ounce of emotion and melodic beauty to express the concerto’s various journeys, from darkness to light, failure to success and sickness to health. Lang-Lessing and the orchestra synchronized precisely with Kern’s fluid tempo changes. Kern’s fiery encore was Sergei Prokofiev’s Etude No. 4. The concert concluded with with another big audience draw, Hector Berlioz’ “Symphonie fantastique,” a work Lang-Lessing conducted with the orchestra in 2012 at the Majestic Theatre.
This orchestra has played this piece astonishing well over the decades, but Friday’s performance was the one to hear if only because of the Tobin Center’s superior acoustics. The percussionists had newer instruments, including larger tubular bells that were played off stage in the bewitching finale.