I will be out of town this week, and Cassie will be taking over the organ bench. Thus, I'll miss what I think is the best concert of this year's Cleveland Orchestra series at Blossom. Saturday night they'll be playing "Pictures at an Exhibition" and Rachmaninoff's Second Piano concerto.
That particular piano concerto was actually my competition piece one season in high school. I never did get the opportunity to play it with an orchestra, but I loved the many recitals and musicales and competitions where I played it with an accompanist. The second movement in particular is gorgeous in its lyricism, though it also has incredibly flashy and intricate passage work as well. The piece is often overshadowed by Rachmaninoff's Third Concerto, but to me the 2nd is among the most beautiful concertos ever written for the piano.
The other main piece, "Pictures at an Exhibition," is a staple of every orchestra's repertoire. I remember hearing it as a child at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. They projected huge images of the artwork on a screen that covered the back wall behind the orchestra. It was a wonderful marriage of visual art and music. The truly transcendent moment of the suite is "The Great Gate of Kiev." The music perfectly captures the sense of travel and arrival at an imposing city monument, and the climax of the music never fails to make my spirit soar. If you had to ask me to name one "secular" piece of music in which I felt the presence of God, this would be it.
If you don't have plans for Saturday night, I can't imagine a more perfect evening than a picnic on the lawn and a great night of music. Wish I could be there!