In Saturday's concert with the Prince William Symphony Orchestra, pianist Christopher Harding chose a piece that left no doubt about his remarkable agility -- Prokofiev's first piano concerto, a work that sparked a furor when the composer gave its premiere performance more than 70 years ago.
If it no longer shocks audiences, it can still amaze them in the hands of a performer such as Harding, who was making his professional debut. A 17-year-old honors student at Brentsville District High School, Harding sailed through the many difficult sections of the concerto, displaying great intensity.
But if his seriousness contributed to the impact of his performance, it was also his weakness. His playing at times lacked the sense of wit that the composer intended in the work.
Music director John Welsh led the orchestra in the all-Russian program, which opened with excerpts from Rimsky-Korsakov's "Tsar Saltan Suite" and closed with Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony (Pathetique). In the final movement of the Tchaikovsky, the strings, which in other parts of the concert lacked unity, came together effectively. There was also crisp precision in the brass during the exciting climax of the movement, although the section had faltered in the "Tsar Saltan Suite." Throughout the evening the winds stood out, particularly in the bassoon's opening passage in the Tchaikovsky.
The next concert to be given by the Prince William Symphony will take place at the Gar-Field High School March 5, featuring orchestral works made popular in recent films.