Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Wilson left a sold-out Charlotte Symphony audience standing and cheering, again, Sunday at the Charlotte Performing Arts Center in Punta Gorda
Terrence Wilson, that is, who as a 9-year-old in the Bronx, New York, began playing Chopin on his mother’s piano.
Since then, he has soloed with almost every major symphony orchestra in the United States and has been heralded for performances around the world in Switzerland, Scotland, Brazil, Paris and countless other international venues.
On sunday, it was Punta Gorda’s turn, as he played Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37” for 40 minutes, astonishing an audience, who gave him not only long, thunderous shouts and applause, but actual shrieks of approval.
It was almost like being at a rock concert.
Beethoven’s third piano concerto is a monumental work, profound and powerful in itself, and it was performed brilliantly by the orchestra under maestro Raffaele Ponti.
But Wilson took it, and the orchestra, to new heights. It was like a musical epiphany. The intensity of his performance was captivating, including two lengthy solos during which even some orchestra members looked on with obvious awe.
He attacked the piano with passion, his fingers a blur as they whirled over the keys. The more the piece progressed, the more stunning it became, spellbinding the audience.
Perhaps more astonishing was that this was only the second time he had performed this particular Beethoven concerto in 25 years of touring the world.
His performance was, to this reviewer who has covered Ponti and the orchestra for its six years, one of the most superb, if not the most superb performance of their tenure.
As one longtime CSO attendee, Kathy des Enfants, marveled, “What a gift.”
It almost made the orchestra’s performance after intermission, Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s “Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36,” anticlimactic.
Yet the orchestra rose to the occasion, performing Tchaikovsky’s symphonic masterpiece with their usual skill and enthusiasm, again to the delight of the audience.
Composed in 1878, the sonata reflects Tchaikovsky’s changing moods at the time. It’s described as a “supercharged” rollercoaster ride of his emotions.
As such, in four movements, it starts with a slow and easy pace, reflecting his dreams, moves into a session of sadness, segueing into a lively scherzo, before finishing with a tempestuous, resounding finale, bringing the audience to its feet with another standing ovation.
Wilson, a Juilliard graduate whose career was launched as a teenager by Philadelphia Orchestra Maestro Ricardo Muti after he won the orchestra’s Junior Concerto Competition, said in a post-concert interview that he was “thrilled” to be asked to perform with the Charlotte Symphony.
“I’m excited,” he said. “What a wonderful orchestra and audience.”
He said that with an orchestra he doesn’t know, he’s not necessarily sure quite what to expect. But as soon as he sat in with the CSO, he said, “I was comfortable with a fine orchestra. Their spirit of music making is a tribute to Maestro Ponti and the orchestra.”
Asked about the intensity of his performance, he smiled and said, “I’m in the zone. I’m possessed. It’s all part of me being immersed in the music.”