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.
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 (of Beethoven 5) one of the most thoughtful and interesting I have ever encountered of the work.
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! 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 Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (Op. 43) has lost none of its magic. The performance at Merrill Auditorium by pianist Bryan Wallick and the Portland Symphony Orchestra, under artistic director Robert Moody, drew one of the largest audiences the orchestra has ever had for a matinee... Wallick made the most of the suspense, with a technique that was almost too perfect.
-Portland Press Herald
One of the qualities of a good performing artist is that he projects the music with individuality, but without obscuring the hallmark of the composer. One can hardly find a better illustration of this aspect of music making as with the gripping performance of the German cellist Wolfgang Emanuel Schmidt and the American pianist Bryan Wallick of Rachmaninoff’s Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op 19. Schmidt and Wallick absorb the music completely and Rachmaninoff’s compositional and emotional surges came to the fore. Only seasoned and highly talented musicians with compromising insights can enlighten this special work in the finest detail, so much the more they are to be lauded bearing in mind that this is the first time that these musicians are playing a duo. Fascinating aspects of the music is portrayed generously with magnetic listening pleasure. Signs of the duo’s enthralling ensemble playing was already evident before interval, first in the Debussy- and then in the Richard Strauss-Sonata.
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. After the majesty and thunder of the first two movements, the Andante comes as a period of blissful repose, music of another age, and it brought forth what I felt was the best playing of the evening.
“Clearly a young man on the way up, Mr. Wallick showed that he has the technique, sensitivity and poise for a concert career.”
"Wallick owned the Gershwin, investing every bar of it with just the right feel of verve and spontaneity. He and Moody inspired the orchestra to swing joyfully along -- which seemed only natural, given how many players are also proficient in jazz. The finale emerged with uncommon drive and energy."
"Wallick made the most of the third movement with astonishing fluency and power, but more pleasing was the flawless integration of his playing with the orchestra’s….This was a seamless fabric of sound."
-Courier and Press
“Wallick brought to each composition his own interpretation and flair. There was always a zest in his delivery that could be compared to the joy of discovery for the first time.”
"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."
“There was something brilliant and intense, as well as aristocratic in his approach to the keyboard.”
-South Hampton Press
“Wallick provided an amazingly focused and eloquent interpretation bursting with youthful vitality and creative energy.”
-The Times Reporter
“Mr. Wallick…possesses a naturally singing tone, an ability to project emotion and to play with command effortlessly. As he tackled the lush, arch-romantic score with his own blend of bravura and sensitivity, you could hear a pin drop.”