Critic's Notebook: The ASO starts 2015 back on track

Trifonov and a renewed ASO audience are early highlights of the new year


  • Dario Acosta Photography
  • KEY PLAYER: Daniil Trifonov was the soloist at the Atlanta Symphony's first concert of 2015.

It may sound odd to say that in a crowd of 1,700 people you spot some new faces, but that was actually the feeling last Thursday night as the Atlanta Symphony performed its first concert of the new year. Although the band technically got back together late last November after its long and grueling lockout at the beginning of this season, last Thursday's was the first concert—after all that holiday fare—with the truly 'back on track, back to business' feel of a regular season concert.

A widely-noted, somewhat ironic outcome of the challenges that many orchestras across the nation have been facing seemed to hold true for the ASO, as well: strangely enough, the problems may serve to make potential audiences more aware and supportive of their orchestras, something that I would say was visible in both the number of attendees at the nearly sold-out performance and in the general enthusiasm and rapt attention of the crowd.

And what a thing to pay renewed attention to! The ASO performed a fantastic show with young Russian pianist and rising star Daniil Trifonov as soloist. It was especially fascinating to watch the physical transformation of Trifonov, who walked on stage — young, slim, and handsome with the stylish, cool, and somewhat diffident air of a 1960s chess champion — and who played hunched over the piano at an impossibly gnarled, unglamorously contorted angle, his face nearly touching the keys during intense passages, as he gave an incredible performance of Rachmaninoff’s "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini." It was a brilliant show from Trifonov and from the ASO, which also performed works by Liszt and Strauss under the baton of guest conductor Asher Fisch on the same program. It was an evening that promised great things — and a smoother year — ahead. Bravo, ASO. More, please.

? ? ?


Elsewhere on the classical music front, opera star Renee Fleming is currently performing in the Met's new production of Lehár’s The Merry Widow. The show is somewhat unusual in that the Met has brought on popular Broadway director and choreographer Susan Stroman (The Producers, Oklahoma!, Contact) to direct her first opera. The Met broadcasts its production to movie theaters around the world, including several in the Atlanta area, on Sat., Jan. 17, at 12:55 p.m. For more info, visit the Met.

If that doesn't satisfy your appetite for opera, check out the Royal Opera House's broadcast of its production of Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore, which updates the action to the sun-drenched Italian countryside of the 1950s. The Landmark Midtown Art Cinema screens the broadcast Sun., Jan. 18, at 11 a.m.