Stunned in Oak Ridge

It’s odd how random circumstances often turn up in threes.

I had decided to venture to Oak Ridge last Saturday evening to catch a performance of the Brahms D Minor Piano Concerto (the No. 1) by the Oak Ridge Symphony Orchestra, even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to review it.  Just before I left, though, I read online that the National Symphony Orchestra was performing the Brahms the same weekend with pianist Markus Groh replacing the unavailable Nelson Freire.  The Washington Post’s Anne Midgette’s review is here.  As I was reading Ms. Midgette’s review, I was distracted by the sound of something plastic falling to the floor.  Checking the noise, I noticed a CD had mysteriously worked its way off the shelf—and it was none other than a recording of the Brahms concerto with Maurizio Pollini performing with the Vienna Philharmonic under Karl Böhm.

Silly superstitions aside, the real shocker was the surprising Saturday evening performance in Oak Ridge by pianist David Brunell.  Somehow, I had never heard Brunell in performance, even though he has been on the piano faculty at the University of Tennessee School of Music for some time.  His Brahms D Minor performance was impassioned, to say the least–and confident, assertive, and lyrical as required.  Both of the Brahms piano concertos can seem overly long in the wrong hands, but Brunell entertained, keeping the work fresh, bright, and alive. The Saturday evening audience practically begged for an encore.  I look forward to hearing more performances from him in the near future.

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