Warsaw Philharmonic, Chopin winner Liu bring big sound, bold playing to Kravis Center

By David Fleshler

Andrey Boreyko conducted the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra Wednesday night at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.

The Ukrainian national anthem has become a common curtain-raiser in recent weeks. Yet there was something particularly stirring in hearing the work played by the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra, representing the country on the front line of NATO’s efforts to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia.

The anthem opened the Warsaw Philharmonic’s concert Wednesday night at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, where the orchestra was beginning a Florida tour that will wrap up April 5 at Miami’s Arsht Center.

Founded in 1901 and led today by artistic director Andrey Boreyko, the orchestra is a fine ensemble, with a well-balanced sound and excellent first-chair players.

The Philharmonic’s full-bodied tone was apparent from the solemn opening of Brahms’ Symphony No. 1, where the ascending melody and ensuing complications arrived with resonance, clarity and a strong sense of forward motion. Lower strings sounded particularly prominent throughout the first movement, giving the stormy music a dark luster.

In the Andante, Boreyko kept the music moving at a brisk pace, bringing the music swiftly through an affecting crescendo to a climax in the violins. Concertmaster Krzysztof Bąkowski performed his elaborate solo with a shimmering vibrato and graceful bowing.

In the third movement, particularly in the Trio, Brahms lets himself go a bit after all the seriousness of the preceding two movements. Yet in this performance, particularly in the music’s rollicking climax, the playing felt a bit subdued for the music.

One of the symphony’s great moments comes with the arrival of the horns in the last movement, where a shining melody breaks through the tension and gloom in a halo of strings. Yet the horns in this case came off as a bit raw and sour, with none of the soaring quality of the performances that really express that passage. That apart, the performance overall effectively captured the drama and pathos of the music, with a luxuriant depth of strings and a firm sense of the work’s movement from darkness to light.

After the Ukraine anthem, the concert proper opened with the Overture to the opera Paria, by Stanisław Moniuszko, a 19th century composer claimed by both Poland and Belarus. This was a colorful and dramatic work, with frantic string playing, crashing cymbals, big themes and a dramatic crescendo or two—all performed with polish and verve.

Bruce Liu performed Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 Wednesday night.

Bruce Liu was the soloist for Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Although a Chopin concerto is a natural work for a touring orchestra from Poland’s capital, it was also quite natural for Liu. The young Canadian pianist took first prize in the 2021 International Chopin Piano Competition, one of the piano world’s most prestigious competitions, with past winners including Maurizio Pollini and Martha Argerich.

His performance of the concerto was broad and sweeping, expressing different facets of Chopin’s musical personality. After an assertive and incisive opening, he played the first melodies in an urgent manner, laying on just enough rubato to intensify them without losing the essentially lyric nature. And there werr loads of sheer virtuosity, from light, sparkling playing to grandiose sweeps up and down the keyboard.

The more delicate side of Chopin emerged in the Romance. Where Liu seemed to drive the melodies forward in the first movement, here he played with a dreamy quality, as if suspended in air. In the Rondo, Liu’s playing was light, but always crisp and focused. Although the notes came at lightning speed, they never became a blur, as he performed with assured phrasing and a firm sense of where the music was going. 

The Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra will repeat the program 8 p.m. April 5 at the Arsht Center in Miami. arshtcenter.org

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Warsaw Philharmonic, Chopin winner Liu bring big sound, bold playing to Kravis Center”

  1. Posted Apr 07, 2022 at 10:08 am by Margaret Markowska

    Excellent concert! Beautiful interpretation of Fryderyk Chopin’s concerto and a wonderful Brahms 1 Symphonie! Bravo! What a excellent orchestra ! Symbiozis with their new chef Andrey Boreyko! Congratulations💐
    The bis….an vigoureuse Mazurka of Stanislaw Moniuszko brillant!
    Bravo Andrzej Borejko! Bravo Andrey Boreyjko!💐🎼💐🎼💐🎼

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