The Grieg Piano Concerto is one of a kind. With each hearing it proves once more that it is a small miracle of music.
Last night at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall pianist Juliana Markova and the National Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Rafael Fru hbeck de Burgos, made it all happen again. The orchestra especially seemed to have a more sensitive response to the colors, matching the pianist's lyricism exactly. Markova is a strong and forceful pianist, but she tastefully held back her full strength. She spun out the melodic lines in some of the best legato playing we are likely to hear this season. The loveliest playing came in the final movement, just before the coda.
The second half of the program offered another one-of-a-kind work, the Berlioz "Symphonie fantastique." For Berlioz, music was multileveled and multivoiced, and it was all put into the most daring harmonic language and form. It is still shocking.
Berlioz provided Fru hbeck with a splendid showcase for conductor and orchestra. Fru hbeck drew a range of dynamics from the NSO that was extraordinary; the dance movement was a swirl of light and color. There was a connection between players and conductor, a rapport that does not occur often in any orchestra. But the most hair-raising stuff came in the finale, from the beginning of the bizarre fugato to the wild and wonderful ending. Berlioz supplied the material, but Fru hbeck and the NSO gave it the skill and the pizazz.