Richardson — The Richardson Symphony concert on Saturday evening featured pianist Iskandar Mamadaliev, the winner of the Ann and Charles Eisemann International Young Artists Competition for piano. He played Rachmaninoff’s ever-popular Piano Concerto No. 2. The concert opened with the prelude to Carl Maria von Weber’s opera, Oberon, followed by one of Franz Schubert’s best-known pieces, his Symphony in B-minor (“The Unfinished”).
The program took place in the main concert hall in Richardson’s Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts, a beautiful hall with comfortable seating and good acoustics. Mamadaliev played on a Steinway concert grand, which has a noticeable flaw: the bass had a noticeable twang, but that might have been because of the way the soloist played. It will take a few more listenings to really make an evaluation.
Mamadaliev was born in 2002 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. He has an impressive list of first prizes in a wide range of piano competitions. In 2014, he relocated to Kansas City to study with Stanislav Ioudenitch, the co-gold medalist in the 11th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition (he shared the honor with Olga Kern).
He started the opening chords of the Rachmaninoff concerto quietly but quickly built to a loud enough dynamic that the orchestra didn’t cover him. Music Director Clay Couturiaux was in contact with the young pianist all the way through the concerto. As a result, the performance was always in sync, even though Mamadaliev took some significant liberties in the name of rubato. To his credit, Mamadaliev always knew the difference between the piano as soloist and accompanist.
In the second movement, when the melody was in the right hand, he wasn’t able to achieve a true legato—but that is a difficult challenge, even to top-level professionals. Mamadaliev opened the last movement with a virtuosic flash. It was a gallop from there to the end, in which he only occasionally rushed.
Overall, Mamadaliev displayed a solid technique and fine, albeit nascent, musicianship. He has a good concept of the overall architecture of the concerto. He got a little bogged down in the second movement, but otherwise he communicated exactly where he was going and took us along with him to the final destination.
This being my first visit to the Richardson Symphony, the program opener, Weber’s Oberon overture, was an excellent introduction to both the orchestra and musical director. Couturiaux is a clear conductor with clean and precise baton technique. He had a firm concept of the piece and a good sense of tempo. The Oberon overture is a virtuoso piece and the Richardson Symphony played it with élan.
The Schubert symphony was dedicated to the memory of the RSO's principal cellist, Jungshin Lim Lewis, who passed away just days before the concert. No further details were available. She was the wife of concertmaster Philip Lewis, who was not present for obvious reasons. The pair of musicians are also well known to local audiences from their work on the Chamber Music International series, of which Phillip Lewis is the Artistic Director. Couturiaux paced a single red rose on the vacant chair in the cello section in tribute.
The conductor and symphony delivered a stylistic performance of an overly familiar work. Tempi were excellent and Couturiaux’s use of rubato was well within the boundaries of the time. Nothing was overdone.
This was a fine concert and speaks well for both orchestra and conductor. Their concerts are well worth attending in the future.