CPO SYMPHONY CONCERT. Thursday, 6 June, 2019. At Cape Town City Hall; CPO conducted by Robert Moody, soloist Bryan Wallick. Dvorák: Overture, Muj Domov, Op 62; Barber: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Op 38; Tchaikovsky: Symphony No 4 in F minor, Op 36.DEON IRISH reviewsSomething obscure, something rare, and something very familiar. It all made for an intriguing programme.The Dvorák overture is one that I have heard before (on checking, I found that I actually have three recordings of it!), although I have not listened to it in recent years. It dates from the period in which Dvorák was still an essentially nationalist composer, just emerging from obscurity.That was in no small part due to his winning an Austrian stipendium for talented young artists in 1874, in which the adjudicators were Johann Ritter von Herbeck (director of the Imperial Opera and composer of the gorgeous Christmas motet, Pueri concinite), the noted music critic Hanslick, and Brahms. Indeed, Brahms became a champion of Dvorák’s music and was largely instrumental in persuading his own publisher, Simrock, to take on the young Czech.Both Brahms and, more especially, Hanslick urged Dvorák to leave Prague and move to Vienna, where – they argued – his art would benefit from a wider horizon and a bigger non-Czech public following. In fact, he did eventually leave Prague in 1892, but for New York – where he spent three productive but increasingly homesick years.It was during this sojourn that he visited Chicago for the World Exhibition of 1893 and, on 12 August, conducted his 8th Symphony, three of the Slavonic Dances and this overture, Muy Domov (My Home) for its “Czech Day”. Originally conceived as incidental music for a patriotic play, the overture contains pleasant enough writing, but has nothing of the vivid immediacy of the composer’s very next orchestral essay, the Scherzo capriccioso, or of the great later overtures.Its inclusion in this programme was that of a by now somewhat obscure work of a major composer, which formed a pleasing if ultimately anodyne curtain-raiser to the major works to follow.A true rarity on our concert platformsFirst among these was Samuel Barber’s Piano Concerto, a true rarity on our concert platforms. It should be pointed out that the programme note (which the CPO obtained in good faith from the old CTSO’s programme bank) is – other than the opening paragraph – a word for word extract from David Ewen´s “The World of Twentieth-Century Music”, 2nd Edition.”Barber began writing his piano concerto in March 1960. Ewen records this work as having been commissioned by the publishing house, G. Schirmer Inc., to mark the centenary of its founding.According to the Grove entry, however, the Schirmer house in fact grew out of an earlier firm, Kerksieg & Bruesing,, which was established in 1848. Gustav Schirmer became manager of this concern in 1854 and, with Bernard Beer, took over the business in 1861. It was only in 1866 that Schirmer bought out Beer and established G. Schirmer Inc. So, the centenary in question was not so much the founding of Schirmer as the earlier takeover of Kerksieg & Bruesing.In any event, it appears that John Browning was always the intended soloist for the first performance and the work was apparently written to display his particular keyboard skills. The second movement was not entirely original and was a reworking of an earlier elegy conceived for flute and piano, being somewhat extended in its new guise as a Canzona.Having completed the first two movements by the end of 1960, inspiration evidently rather dried up and the work was then further delayed by the death of Barber’s sister in July 1961 and then by an invitation to attend the Congress of Soviet Composers in March the following year. It was accordingly not until 9 September of 1962 just 15 days before the scheduled premiere, that the final movement was completed, the soloist being Browning and the Boston Symphony being conducted by Erich Leinsdorf. The work was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for 1963 and the Music Critics’ Circle Award in 1964.Bryan WallickMemphis Symphony Orchestra, Arizona MusicfestOn this occasion, the soloist was Bryan Wallick (whom I last heard at this venue in 2012 in the Brahms D minor concerto conducted by Victor Yampolsky), and the conductor Robert Moody, making his Cape Town debut.Moody is the music director of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and of the Arizona Musicfest and is that rarity among modern conductors: a man with an independent left hand. Whilst the Dvorák overture had not given him much opportunity of demonstrating his podium skills, this concerto – with its frequently jagged rhythmic stresses, abrupt alterations of mood and inherent problems of ensemble – certainly did. He proved to be an ideal interpreter of this intriguing concerto.I recall not being entirely convinced by Wallick’s account of the Brahms (based largely on personal predilections); no such misgivings attended this hearing in which an assured technique and a big musical personality seemed perfectly attuned to the requirements of the score.Significant tonal projectionThe soloist has the honour of opening the work with an immediate declamatory cadenza that – with some orchestral interpolations – heralds the arrival of the agitated first subject. Wallick demonstrated significant tonal projection in this opening flurry – although not reaching the sheer power he was to demonstrate in the later and fuller cadenza. The first subject material afforded opportunity for a display of glittering and steely finger work, with some neat orchestral accompaniment and telling flute and horn solos.The oboe solo introducing the second subject material sounded curiously thin – perhaps just a not particularly good reed on the night. The rather perfunctory development of these themes involved some nicely Prokofievian chordal shards before the relatively centrally-placed cadenza let loose a storm of pianistic passion. The movement continued with the further discussion of the principal subject material resolved serenely into its ultimately rather gentle conclusion (notwithstanding the last-minute outburst).The Canzona does not entirely hide its true genesis; and, although it no longer exhibits the mien of an elegy, it remains a wistful reverie. The opening section (with harp in accompaniment) might indeed be mistaken for a slow movement nocturne in a flute concerto; but once the piano enters and develops an intensely introspective analysis of the theme (over some of Barber’s most delicate orchestral colours), the original conception is truly transmogrified.I thought this was a terrific account, with a sensitively delivered solo line and some gorgeous colouring in the orchestral accompaniment.The third movement really is very different to its precursors. Whether that might be explained by the insidious influences of the Soviet Composers at the Congress of 1962 is debatable; but there certainly does seem to be more of a Prokofiev in the aggressively spiky writing of the solo line and much of the transparent, even minimalist accompanimental writing calls to mind Stravinskian neo-Classicism.Inspirations apart, the movement – which starts in what appears slightly perfunctory fashion – builds in energy and excitement to what is an undeniably invigorating conclusion, given full measure by these two fellow sons of the composer’s Land of the Free.The evening concluded with a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony in F minor, Op 36. It is a work that is justifiably held in high regard, although by no means the most popular of the composer’s essays in the form. And yet it has all the best hallmarks of the composer: memorable melodies coupled to insightful harmonies; beautifully conceived instrumental solos; assured – even lush – string writing; blistering brass outbursts; driving rhythms and superb orchestral colours.Not a bad check list for a conductor to tick off and Moody (and his players) managed high scores in almost all of them. The only element I found slightly lacking was the sheer self-indulgent beauty of some of the more lugubrious passages.The modern world is curious in this regard; whilst the media seemingly afford opportunity for – perhaps even require – the display of an overt emotional reaction by all from politicians to celebrities to victims of personal tragedy, there nevertheless exists a scornful distaste of anything that might be characterized as being sentimental or displaying an inner despair.And yet this is almost the bed-rock on which this symphony is founded. So, what I did find a little absent in this reading was a sense of self-pitying despair, so evident in the composer’s writings from the period and clearly informative of this work. The second movement fared least well in this regard, never quite achieving the sheer abandon that gives rise to an uneasy sense of suppressed hysteria and that makes of it a confession almost too distressing to be overheard.” - Deon Irish

Weekend Special (Cape Town)

William Charlton-Perkins reviews a Knysna Plett Concert Series Event with Russian cellist Alexander Tamm accompanied by pianist Bryan Wallick.Artists: Alexander Ramm (Cello), Bryan Wallick (Piano)Venue: Dutch Reformed Church Hall, KnysnaDate: Monday 3 June 2019Monday's recital presented under the auspices of the Knysna Music Society offered a revelatory and rewarding evening of music-making, as delivered by the visiting Russian cellist, Alexander Ramm, ably accompanied by pianist Bryan Wallick.Their finely curated Knysna Plett Concert Series programme opened with an early Beethoven work, the G minor Sonata for Cello and Piano Opus 5 no 2. This firmly inhabits the High Classical world of the late 18th Century - as opposed to the revolutionary ethos of its more familiar counterparts among the composer’s later masterworks. Both artists, the fleet-fingered pianist in particular, adopted a neo-Mozartian approach appropriate to this repertoire.The highlight of the evening was the second item on the bill, Benjamin Britten’s rarely performed Cello Suite No 1 in G Major. This found Mr Ramm unleashing the full gamut of his very considerable technical and musical prowess, thrillingly essaying the titanic hurdles of the extraordinary score which Britten bestowed upon his muse, the great Mstislav Rostropovich in 1960. What a gift to posterity, particularly for those of us privileged to hear the work so magnificently performed by its creator’s compatriot!The second half of the programme opened with a scintillating performance by Ramm of Tchaikovsky’s effervescent Pezzo Capriccioso for Cello and Orchestra, in a chamber music reduction by Michel Pletnev. Here Dr Wallick remained discreetly in accompanist mode. The formal programme concluded with a welcome account of Chopin’s deeply searching Sonata for Cello and Piano. The performances of both artists left little to be desired, the pianist’s lambent, pearl-like tone effectively offsetting Ramm’s soaring, burnished sound.Their choice of an encore, Paganini’s virtuosic Variations on the famous prayer from Rossini’s great Neapolitan opera, Mosè in Egitto, brought the evening to a delightfully witty close.” - William-Charlton Perkins


  Paul Boekkooi: Cello and piano recital: When kindred spirits meet to rekindle the magic of music.Peter Martens and Bryan Wallick – both have doctoral degrees in music – may live fifteen hundred kilometres apart, but musically speaking they are on the same page.Sunday’s late afternoon recital at the Wits Education Campus’ Linder auditorium hosted by the Johannesburg Musical Society was on many levels inspirational. Apart from being a refreshing guideline for listeners how the greatest of composers always give performers a choice in their approach to specific compositions, this scope becomes much more limited by those composers who are, through natural selection, rated further down the line.|The ‘cellist Peter Martens has chosen to go it alone in the opening work: J.S. Bach’s Suite No. 4 in E flat major, BWV 1010. Pablo Casals, the legendary Spanish ‘cellist (1876-1973), used to say: “First Bach – and then all the others... He dominates the whole lot.” More than ever before the performer has options in how the music can or should be interpreted. A score by Bach is everything but an artefact, but rather a living organism whose performance will as much be guided by a combination of historical insights and various personal approaches which might well, at the end, lead to a coherent wholeness in the final delivery.Martens’ tempos were already in the opening Prelude predominantly brisk. The music no doubt came alive that way, without losing anything on the level of being distinguished in its stylistic consistency, or structured organic development throughout its seven movements of which numbers two to seven range from stately to exuberant dance forms. In the well-controlled Sarabande the contrapuntal element was clear and strongly projected. Slightly more breathing space between movements could also have had a more therapeutic effect on the listeners, but that is a less significant point. As a whole the performance carried the impression of a nearly improvisatory freedom which implies that the tyranny of the bar-line has been ruled out and replaced with vividness, freshness, plus variety regarding pace, expression and articulation.    In the Sonata No. 1 in E minor for ‘Cello and Piano, Opus 38 by Brahms it was immediately clear that Martens and Wallick saw eye to eye regarding the young Brahms’ first published chamber music work, written between the age of 29 and 32. This was demonstrated in encompassing musical detail, but never in a way which was even for a moment out of scale or at odds with the work’s basic classical elements. The intensity of Wallick’s playing flows from a relaxed premise, but soon gathers in involvement and intensity as he and Martens demonstrated a wonderful sense of line in the Allegro non troppo opening movement.Vivid characterisation followed in the elegant and limpid playing of this duo in the Allegretto quasi minuetto. It was in no way a let-down, described long ago by one critic as “sounding like an elephant dancing on tiptoes” after the very impressive beauty of the first movement. Here real understated delicateness, playful irony and a hint of humour presented itself centre-stage, without ever sounding pedestrian in the slightest way possible. At one time in this sonata’s history the fugue of the Allegro-Finale was found to be almost impossible to bring off in performance, but Martens and Wallick did not let anything stand in their way to keep the articulation in those textures clear before the marvel of the sonata’s ending had its miraculous effect on the audience.In the final work on the programme, the Sonata in G minor for ‘Cello and Piano, Opus 19 by Rachmaninov, this duo aimed at a process where some of the work’s overtly and typical Slavic temperament as well as the continuous accents on sentiment and nostalgia could be tempered. In the process the piece lost most of its cloying Russian baggage and gathered kudos for those listeners who in the past had to sit through its long-windedness.In this expansive Rachmaninov piece from his youth, Martens and Wallick opted for the clarity of sound one can compare with a multifaceted diamond. Martens did not need to force the most burnished, nor penetrating sound to find the right balance with the piano. Although Walllick provided the necessary heft if tone when needed, his approach towards this sonata also had an easy grace and crystalline spring to the playing. It provided a kind of magic carpet on which the most subtle sound waves could be created. Everything in this performance throughout the four extended movements flowed naturally from each musical argument and was developed in a totally convincing and sustained way. This kind of musical dialogue between two rather opposing instruments hasn’t gripped this listener on this level for ages. The encore, Rachmaninov’s Vocalise, didn’t for a moment sound alien due to the fact that Martens avoided even hinting at a portamento. Instead, the sheer momentum, the natural flow of the melody from phrase to phrase, from arch to arch, is, after all, pure Rachmaninov.  ” - Paul Boekkooi


Pianist Wallick dazzles again in Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra season finale   If the draw of an all-Beethoven program wasn’t enough, the Friday evening concert at the Overture Center’s Capitol Theater marked the return of Bryan Wallick—with the hope that he would dazzle us as he did a couple of seasons ago, this time at the helm of the mighty “Emperor” concerto. But the major draw was certainly Wallick. The Piano Concerto No. 5 (nicknamed “Emperor” by … who knows?) is arguably the greatest of all piano concertos. One immediately thrilled to Wallick’s expansive, yet propulsive, exposition of the opening quasi-cadenzas in response to the WCO’s full-throated chords of punctuation. Yet in the first all-orchestral passage, we also had an illustration of the pitfalls of a chamber orchestra reading of works of this breadth and power: The twenty string players were overmatched by the zealous (though arrestingly beautiful) reeds and brass. Later in the work, particularly in the finale, the balances were more equitable, and in the larger picture, the performance was like a living dissertation on the state of the orchestra c.1810. The rapid expansion of the number of string players occurred in large part because of the improvement in wind instruments, the fact that composers were writing for a wider variety of reeds and brass in greater numbers, and they made a stronger sound. And now we can put the criticism regarding balances in the all-but-a-quibble file. The tradeoff is, when artists who work so well together as Wallick and Sewell, as well as the rank and file of the orchestra itself, precious stretches of transparent playing that, at best, are rare when larger orchestras go full bore on the big works. This was never truer than in the shimmering slow movement of the concerto … liquid moonlight being produced by Wallick, the orchestra reflecting it with a shimmer of its own. The transition to the finale—one of this writer’s all-time favorite passages in music—easily rose to the hold-your-breath level of beauty and expectation. The finale was that heady brand of pure joy driven by unbounded energy that lies at the heart of all of Beethoven’s greatest fast movements. For good measure, and with a little coaxing from Sewell after a standing ovation and multiple curtain calls, Wallick treated us to the Rachmaninoff Prelude in B-flat Major, proving that he can roar all by himself, at least when the piano wasn’t purring instead. We are so fortunate to have had him in Madison on more than one occasion, and if Sewell manages to bring him back again (feel free, sir!), the handfuls of the empty seats Friday night should be completely full next time.” - Greg Hettmansberger

Madison Magazine

Ravinia – Bryan Wallick, Piano     The crisp, autumnal scent of the Ravinia Festival grounds, squirreled away from Chicago’s smog and aural grumblings, whispered of the clarity that was to come when Bryan Wallick played his Bach-centric, organ-celebrating program of the music of that master himself, Brahms’ famous variations on a theme of Bach’s spiritual son, Handel, and the reminiscences of the compositional re-envisaging Liszt in his B-A-C-H  fantasy. Educated at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of music, Julliard, and London’s Royal Academy of Music, Wallick’s gold medal at the Vladimir Horowitz International Competition didn’t quell his thirst for academic studies, and this pristine programming brings both his musical intellect and some of his unique, pianistic singing front-and-center. While Wallick has been giving this concert publicly in various venues since May, it seemed as though it was particularly chosen to embellish the profoundly secretive feel of Ravinia, and for this time of the year when the earth’s landscape burns bright colors to accompany a cycle of reflection. It is a curious thing to imagine the trajectory of this young performer’s musical understanding from his 1997 Horowitz win to this, his third Ravinia outing. It is likely that a youthful firestorm of technical thundering carried him to that gold medal. The twenty years that have past, during which time he has concertized across the world, found love and the gift of children in South Africa, and is now proving himself the skillful entrepreneur, poised to bring further success to the field of concert management in his chosen home, a country pinning for a stronger currency, where world-class artists must be cajoled to the journey for the love of the country’s beauty and the musical festivities concocted by this minion of music, have no doubt leavened the breath and breadth of his singular abilities. One who has not lived a life, no matter the veracity of a youthful talent, can bring the most fulsome passions to account. For Wallick now plays each phrase as a new idea, in the way that a singer’s breath before every phrase carries the emotion of the moment to follow. There is such a sustained joy that beams from this mature artist, confined, as is the fate of the concert pianist, to an angle which shields part of the facial expression from those who beg to share the music. In every flick of the eye, in every wry twist of the corner of his mouth, in every soulful returning to the keys after a moment of aching quiet, this artist invites a conversation. Wallick always has something to say, a thought to elucidate, an emotion to explore, and to refuse his invitation to this dance is to squander talents. Wallick’s phrasing in Bach’s Concerto nach Italienischem Gusto gave joyous lie to the notion that, in order to imitate the swift changes of registry the saturating shades that the organ can supply by switching from one of its keyboards to another, the experience of his music removed from that sensibility must remember its origin by playing a repeating phrase very softly if it is first sounded sonorously, and vice-versa. Wallick played Bach with a sensuality that can only be realized by giving attention to the tiny, internal phrasings of a larger musical statement. Even when illuminating two note-phrases, his keen sensitivity to the weight of every note gave Bach’s pristine musings a heart-swelling romance. Conversely, and gloriously, Wallick played Brahms as if he were Bach, giving every surprising turn of the Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel a lucidity that would have made Bach’s predecessor, the composer Johann Kuhnau leap for pure love. Once again, it was the studied weight for each individual digital message with which Wallick lead us on this merry dance, always humming the theme while letting Brahms toss his compositional hair about, birthing the chords that would throw the door open to others, a door through which a young Gershwin would one day waltz, that won us the prize. Albéniz’s Evocación and El Puerto from Iberia, Book 1 gave the program the necessary palate-cleanser, as his folksong-borrowed strains took us to us to a gentle drowsiness, letting the mind wander in that special way that instrumental music can afford, letting personal pictures and moments flicker across our mind’s brow, in step with the heartfelt bubbling. We were better for the siesta, for up next was Liszt’s Fantasy and Fugue on the Theme B-A-C-H. The heretofore warmly calculating, joyfully jocular Wallick brought every eye to the keyboard, as he brought the weight and his truth of this crowd-pleasure to full flower. Here Wallick displayed a different kind of passion than we had heard earlier. At times there was a wall of sound that left us breathless, and the clear rapidity of all of the notes of downward scales was so smooth as to sound like a glissando that somehow encompassed the black keys as well. The composer’s Norma fantasy brought the amorousness of the evening to a compositional conclusion, with the technical and emotional glimpses of this artist’s journey for that particular evening restated, then slipping sweetly away into the early evening air. How is it that Bryan Wallick is no a household name in this country? This can only be the difficulty of continuing a career on an international platform while raising children and musical expectations in South Africa. We must hope that his new professional responsibilities will give his career a greater international attention. Wallick has received a grant from the Scottsdale Center to create a cross-spectrum musical event, showcasing his personal experience wherein he sees a color with every musical pitch. This ability to experience “two or more sensory experience with one stimuli” is called Synesthesia, and Wallick looks forward to showing his audiences what his mind’s eye embraces as his music speaks to his heart, to share his colors as well as his songs. Shades of Sondheim’s “Color and Light?” Is Wallick putting together his own musical “Chromolume?”  For now, we must wait, and continue to dream.   Reviewed by Aaron Hunt   Presented on September 5 at the Ravinia Festival, 418 Sheridan Road, Highland Park” - Aaron Hunt

Chicago Theatre Review

Potent Performances There were two surprises at the weekly symphony concert by the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra.  The violins were divided left and right of the conductor.  And, more astonishingly, Bryan Wallick, the American pianist based in Pretoria who substituted for the advertised Russian soloist, played exactly the same advertised work the First Brahms Concerto, the one in D minor.  What a huge concerto to prepare at just over two days’ notice—and perfectly memorised too!...The only fault to be found in Bryan Wallick’s reading of the concerto was a lack of penetrating singing tone for the melodic passage.  This may have been due to the piano, which though nearly new has a weak treble tone.  Specially impressive was Wallick’s handling of the many strenuous octave passages and the remarkable double trills—difficult for anyone without large hands.  Ensemble with the orchestra was flawless.  Prabava produced a stylish account of the orchestral component, clearly matched to the conception of the soloist.  The encore, well chosen, was Un Sospiro (A Sigh), an etude by Liszt which test the pianist’s skill in arpeggios and in playing a melody with hands in alternation from note to note.” - Michael Traub

— The Citizen

Exciting and stimulating evening Music ranging from the very familiar to the totally unfamiliar was presented in the Durban City Hall when the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra gave its first concert of the winter season.Unfortunately the audience was rather sparse, thanks to the violence which accompanied a taxi drivers’ protest in the city centre earlier in the day. Those who stayed away missed an exciting and stimulating evening.We had a new conductor, an energetic, enthusiastic and skilful young Spaniard named Josep Vicent, and a brilliant young American pianist, Bryan Wallick, who has played in Durban before.The first half of the programme was occupied by Brahms’s massive Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat, which runs for about 50 minutes. For the pianist, this work is a formidable technical and interpretative challenge, and Bryan Wallick produced a virtuoso performance that earned him prolonged applause at the end. ” - Michael Green

— Artsmart

April showers bring May Beethoven The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra finishes the season with an exhilarating flourish by John W. Barker May must be the month for Beethoven. The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra closed its season with an all-Beethoven program. And next weekend, The Madison Symphony Orchestra performs the composer’s Ninth Symphony.  The WCO began on May 1 at the Overture Center’s Capitol Theater with a comparative novelty that still merits hearing from time to time: the first of the three overtures that Beethoven wrote for different productions of his only opera, under its original title of “Leonore.” It is less ambitious in structure than its grander successors, but the WCO realized it warmly. The guest soloist was the rapidly rising young American pianist Bryan Wallick, playing Beethoven’s Concerto No. 5, the “Emperor.” This is usually delivered in a commanding and powerhouse style, and, indeed, Maestro Andrew Sewell and the orchestra gave him every encouragement to reach grandiosity. But Wallick promptly showed, in the first movement, a pattern of beginning heroically but then pulling back as soon as possible into delicate understatement. That approach was quite apt in the thoughtful middle movement, which he treated as soulful repose. Then the pianist returned to the alternation of epic and poetic in the final movement.  In a sense, this approach created an inconsistency, but it was clearly an effort to escape the stereotyping of this work by suggesting a range of expression beyond the conventional. I had the good fortune to speak with Wallick after the concert and he indicated that a chamber orchestra affords him the opportunity for projecting such a range. I found this performance one of the most thoughtful and interesting I have ever encountered of the work. In an encore, a prelude in B-flat by Rachmaninoff, Wallick again showed his instinct for finding delicacy amid all the bravura writing.” - John W. Barker

Madison Newspaper

The audience applauded his virtuoso piano so intensely and for so long that he relented and served up a little dessert -- a wicked "Flight of the Bumblebee." So fast, his hands were blurs over the keys.".”

Extreme Culture