Iâ€™ve said it before, Iâ€™ll say it again. Thereâ€™s nothing better than a Sunday with the Phil. California Philharmonic, that is. I was excited for two special reasons this time. Braveheart and Robin Hood. The program includes pieces from both and I love that kind of tone and style.
Maestro Vener greets the house as always. Welcoming, cheerful and with glee. He knows the fun weâ€™re about to have and playfully reveals it one moment at a time. But just before weâ€™re about to start, comes the first surprise.
Off Venerâ€™s wand, starts a distant bagpipe. He plays along, his eyes puzzled. The music grows, yet the volume stays low. Restrained. Moments pass. The bagpipes continue while Vener passes his glance around the room, playing along as the constant showman.
Finally with a boot thump, the marching begins. Within moments the Cabar Feidh Pipeband marches into the concert hall in perfect cadence. Behold! Quite a sight. They spread across the floor, 12 in total, with their leader, a grizzled looking Scotchman front and center. The play a rousing rendition of â€śScotland the Braveâ€ť and then journey backstage leaving behind the breathless audience.
After the charming Vener reacted and helped the audience calm, we continued with 1960â€™s â€ś Camelotâ€ť. Over six pieces in a row, he explains the real-life story behind one of the creatorâ€™s romance that ultimately influenced the music itself.
Then comes samples of the late-great Michael Kamen, which of course did â€ś Robin Hood: Prince of Thievesâ€ť Main Theme. Bombastic and riveting.
Before intermission we enjoyed â€ś Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganiniâ€ť, a meditative swirl that takes your imagination on a rich and complex journey. This is where the great, world-renowned and dare-I-say top ranked in the world pianist Robert Thies dazzled us. How you ask? Well, Thies was the first American in four decades to win the Russian piano contest. Heâ€™s not just good. Heâ€™s altering. Watching his nimble fingers delicately finding the right strokes in speed, placement and rhythm. That in itself could be show. And probably has been.
â€¨Things twisted again with Tristan and Isoldeâ€™s Prelude and Love Death and finally lightened up for Lohengrin for Prelude to Act III.
The audience, having finished todayâ€™s emotional journey and experienced a true range was exhausted. But our day wasnâ€™t done. Vener corraled us into a group clap. I promise you, itâ€™s more intense then it sounds. Playful, curious, yet intense. And just then the encore sweeps out Cabar Feidh once again for a truly memorable â€ś Amazing Graceâ€ť.
To learn more about Cabar Feidh, click here or on myspace.
To learn more about world-renowned pianist Robert Thies, click here.
As always, to learn more about the Cal Phil, and to buy tickets, visit here.