Posted on Sun, Jun. 06, 2004
Rising star, 17, shines on piano at Botanic Garden
By Punch Shaw
Special to the Star-Telegram (Fort Worth, Texas)
FORT WORTH - We know the piece. And we may soon know its performer.
The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra trotted out the often-performed Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 for a program titled Picture This ... in the Concerts in the Garden series Saturday night at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden.
That daunting masterwork has been played a number of times in these parts recently by a number of fine pianists. But Saturday's soloist was a new face: 17-year-old Adam Golka of Houston, an American prodigy studying at Texas Christian University with Jose Feghali. He arrived at the garden as a seasoned performer who has taken top prizes in competitions from South Texas to Shanghai.
Golka seemed in easy command throughout the concerto. He brought a light touch and a brighter-than-usual tone to the opening movement and an appropriate amount of thunder to the close. If he failed to dazzle, it probably had more to do with the overfamiliarity of the piece and the outdoor, amplified environment than his playing.
He made an even more impressive showing in his encore, the closing movement of Prokofiev's Piano Sonata No. 7. Where his Rachmaninoff was mostly about finesse, his Prokofiev was all speed and power. In this work, Golka's flash and dash cut through the natural obstacles that may have blunted the Rachmaninoff a bit.
With the technical proficiency Golka demonstrated in the Rachmaninoff and the showmanship in the Prokofiev, don't be surprised if you see him among the competitors in next year's Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.
The Rachmaninoff was sandwiched between American composer Samuel Barber's Overture to the School for Scandal and Modest Mussorgsky's beloved Pictures at an Exhibition.
The orchestra, under the baton of Music Director Miguel Harth-Bedoya, had no trouble with Barber's racing, bouncy overture, which does not sound like a piece composed in 1931.
Performing before a surprisingly small crowd of 850, the orchestra closed with a performance of the Mussorgsky that did not always hit on all cylinders. It held together well enough and had a number of fine moments. But it was far from note-perfect, and at times it seemed the piece needed a bigger, more Russian sound.
So overall, it may not have been the series' most memorable night. But when the stars are shining as brightly as they did Saturday night, the music is only one part of enjoying the show. And we may have seen an early twinkle of a new star in Golka.