Just performed the Beethoven Triple with these two wonderful musicians at the Arizona Musicfest.  Christoph Koncz is the principal second violin of the Vienna Philharmonic, and his brother is a cellist in the Berlin Philharmonic.  Feb 21, 2017

 

Below are two reviews of my Prokofiev 2 with Cape Town Philharmonic: May 19, 2016

Prokofiev’s second piano concerto is my highlight of the season. I am biased, though, since I am a great admirer of Russian music. It pays homage to his great compatriots, but with Prokofiev’s own unique modern touches. It was dedicated to a friend of his at the St Petersburg Conservatory, who committed suicide. The original score was burnt during the Russian Revolution, which Prokofiev had fled, but he reconstructed and revised the music a decade later. It’s easy to imagine the tumultuous political climate of the time being reflected in the music.

American pianist Bryan Wallick, now living in South Africa, delivered sensitive playing of this incredibly difficult work. Tien matched the orchestra’s loudness to match the piano, but I wished for more volume and passion at times.

There are many memorable moments in this concerto, but my favourite came in the first movement. Wallick played with an incredible range of dynamics and emotion in the long solo cadenza. He built the intensity beautifully before leading the orchestra into the powerful finale in which the sweeping strings and thundering brass were spine-tingling. The scherzo second movement is a relentless onslaught of notes, and Wallick drifted in and out of the orchestral timbre. The death march third movement was also exciting. The final movement is bookended by emotional outbursts from the piano and orchestra, and features haunting folk song-like melodies in the middle. A very long and well-deserved applause followed

Rudolph Mare

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There is an understated kind of charm about this concerto. Beginning rather ordinarily, the work is embalmed with Prokovief’s unmistakable mystical logic. We find ourselves in the most unexpected places as if by magic, and somehow arrive back in the tonic. Wallick’s interpretation of this musical sorcery was Renoiresque – a hazy impression that on closer inspection reveals articulate precision. His playing was relaxed, contemplative, and very clean, portraying a healthy blend of confidence and intuitive accuracy. His fingers have a way of finding the right notes. As enchanting as the first movement is, the cadenza does rather stand out as the reason why any fiery pianist would perform the work. Growing in layers, the developments on the first subject become progressively intense, each new layer seeming to be the ultimate hight of extremism, only to reveal another even higher pinnacle. Time suspended as Wallick’s left hand plucked melody out from between the dangerous moving parts of his right hand arpeggios. With increasing conviction, it dawned on the audience that we were in the presence of a remarkable pianist, who plays like a Tai Chi master – organic and fluid, surging and ebbing, gathering and centering, accurate and intense.

The third movement Intermezzo was phenomenal – a magical macabre slow scary march from the CTPO, great interpretation by Maestro Tien.

Andrew Wilding

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Below is the review of my Prokofiev 2 with the KZNPO Philharmonic:

A remarkable performance recognised as such by an appreciative audience. (Review by Michael Green) Oct 2, 2015

A programme of mainly unfamiliar music produced pleasant surprises for the Durban City Hall audience at the latest concert of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra’s spring season.

A Sergei Prokofiev piano concerto that has seldom if ever been played here before turned out to be a spectacular success, and a virtually unknown symphony by another Russian composer put a song in everyone’s heart.

The conductor was the enthusiastic and popular Israeli-American Daniel Boico, and the solo pianist was another performer much admired here, Bryan Wallick, American but now living in Pretoria.

Prokofiev wrote five piano concertos, of which the third is by far the best known. Bryan Wallick played No. 2 in G minor. It was written in 1913 and is one of the most difficult works in the entire concerto repertory.

Among its challenges are a massive five-minute first movement cadenza, part of it marked Colossale – colossal – by the composer; and a second movement in which the pianist plays about 1,500 semiquavers at high speed, the two hands in unison playing the same notes an octave apart.

Technicalities aside, the first movement has a really haunting main theme, and there are memorable moments elsewhere in the work.

Wallick handled all this with high skill and aplomb, hands flying all over the keyboard, and the orchestra was an admirable partner in this complex music. A remarkable performance, and it was recognised as such by an appreciative audience.
 
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Here are the latest reviews of my Beethoven 5 in Madison, Wisconsin:

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.

 

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.

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Bryan Wallick recently replaced a soloist with the Johannesburg Philharmonic performing Brahms First Piano Concerto Op. 15 with two days notice.  Here is the review:

JPO Review:  Potent Performances

Michael Traub

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. 

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Here is a review from Bryan Wallick's recent performance in April 2014 with the Portland Symphony Orchestra.

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

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Here are the latest reviews of my Saint Saens Concerto No. 5 in Madison, Wisconsin:

Madison Magazine

Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra Opens Their Season with a Major Statement

...Along with Sewell’s knack for picking pieces, he also brings in soloists that frequently are making a Madison debut. On this occasion it was the pianist Bryan Wallick, no stranger to much of Europe and North America since his gold medal-winning performance at the 1997 Horowitz competition in Kiev. Not only did Wallick and Sewell opt for one of the less-played composers, Saint-Saens, but offered the Piano Concerto No. 5, a charming and exciting work that languishes in the middle of the pack among the composer’s achievements.

From a seat in the balcony, the nearly 40-member orchestra almost covered Wallick in the big moments, but he had plenty of opportunity to seduce us with scintillating virtuosity and an impressive array of keyboard color—all the more appropriate as Wallick has the condition known as synesthesia, and he sees colors in response to the notes and chords he plays.

In case there were any doubts as to his total technical mastery, Wallick gave an encore of Liszt’s Concert Paraphrase on Rigoletto. As with every true artist, Wallick managed to find the expressive moments couched within the razzle-dazzle.

 

The Daily Page

With the WCO, pianist Bryan Wallick shows why Saint-Saëns' "Egyptian" Symphony deserves greater exposure

...The evenings's featured soloist was pianist Bryan Wallick, another of those enterprising guests who spares us the usual warhorses and brings us something fresh and unfamiliar. Camille Saint-Saëns is still too readily dismissed for his facile productivity, even though his works prove full of delightful surprises. Of his five piano concertos, we are likely to hear only the Second or the Fourth with any frequency, but this is unfair to the Fifth. It is known as the "Egyptian," in view of the place the composer was visiting when he wrote it in 1896, in celebrating his 50th anniversary as a concert pianist.

Whether or not one can identify authentic "Egyptian" material in the piece, it is a jewel box of surprises. Amid all the showy virtuosity, great tunes suddenly pop out of nowhere, and the composer's delight is not so much to develop his material as to play with it, have fun with it. This work really ought to be heard more often. Wallick pulled off the virtuoso fireworks with ease, but also with a sense of Gallic elegance. As an encore, he presented Franz Liszt's paraphrase on the Quartet from Verdi's Rigoletto, plainly as a vehicle to remind us of his capacities for showy brilliance.

 

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