I Musici impresses Pantages crowd

By weeklyvolcano on October 21, 2006

Don’t let the nondescript, even grandfatherly appearance of the musicians fool you â€" These guys can seriously play.  No, I’m not talking about the Stones, though I have been told they put on a rocking show, too.  I’m referring to I Musici, the 12-man string ensemble who played the new and improved Pantages Theater last night, courtesy of the Tacoma Philharmonic.

When the men stepped out, I wasn’t sure what to think.  Certainly they didn’t seem to have the sort of commanding presence of, say, the Three Tenors.  The Twelve Italians walked out, sat down, and got down to business.  The first order of business was a little ditty called Sonata in G Major for Strings, No. 1, by Giaocchino Rossini.  I sat up straighter, loving how the guys on stage managed to coax beautiful sounds out of their instruments, many of which were made before the times of the composers whose works were played.

Silvio DiRocco played a mean solo viola, but was shown up by Vito Paternoster’s cello virtuosity as he played his own arrangement of Rossini works.  I didn’t think it could get much better until Antonio Anselmi, a Yanni-haired youngish guy with a face like John Cusack, had his turn as a soloist for Paganini’s Variations for Violin and Strings “Carnivale di Venezia.”  I knew the tune as “Mein hut, er hat drei ecken,” or the “My hat it has three corners” song, but the variations on the theme were insanely difficult, and handled with such apparent ease, that I had to get to my feet with the rest of the standing-O crowd.  I overheard a woman behind me saying, “I wonder if he sold his soul to the devil to play like that?” of Anselmi, who proved himself more than a one-trick pony when he came back to solo in the Antonio Vivaldi piece “Concerto in A Major for Two Violins.” 

The intensity and perfection of I Musici never faltered, not through the Arcangelo Corelli piece, and through to the finish of Spring and Summer, from Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.  By this point I was in that sublime heaven for those who appreciate great music, caught between the edge of goose bumps and tears. Unfortunately, my heaven had seats slightly less comfortable than clouds.  It was a relief to stand for another standing ovation, and when the men played an encore, performing Rossini’s Bolero, I was relieved that the piece was short.  Much as the music amazed and thrilled me, I was ready to be done.

Listening to my old CD of the Four Seasons at home, however, I realized that for a night, with a lucky packed-Pantages crowd, I had experienced live musical perfection.
And it was good. â€" Jessica Corey-Butler