The 2007-08 season of the Greater Bridgeport Symphony began with a blast, officially a "Beethoven Blast," Saturday evening at the Klein Memorial Auditorium. Three of the giant composer's works made up the evening, beginning with the overture to his only opera, "Fidelio." Although it's been part of GBS programs in the past, Maestro Gustav Meier always inspires a fresh, thrilling performance ? this one is no exception. This curtain-raiser immediately set the exciting tone in anticipation of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1, which followed immediately.
In what seemed a contrast, the concerto opened quietly, but merely for a few measures before the orchestra turned into a stately, grand theme and transported us in imagination to a regal court for an important function. In another moment we knew what it was when soloist Vanessa Perez began to play with astonishing clarity and finesse. Not only was her every turn crystalline and pristine, but at the same time she had one passage after another overflowing with emotion. This was lush Beethoven. At the same time the orchestra emphasized the classical genius with its bold and robust turns. Speaking of turns, the second movement's "Largo" turned the mood to deeply meditative with Perez's playing reaching into a reverie. One of the real pleasures of a concerto well performed is to marvel at the interplay between the orchestra and soloist. Here, that partnership couldn't have been better or done with more versatility.