Barry Douglas has always been a popular soloist with this orchestra but his fourth visit here featured him in a concerto that hasn't figured prominently in his repertoire: Saint-Saens' “Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor.”
The work's unusual opening, an extended introduction for the soloist, illustrated that this was to be no conventional performance. Douglas indulged in frequent displays of rubato that suggested a more romantic than classical approach.
Douglas sat high at the piano, a position that afforded him greater leverage when it came to drawing a big sound from the instrument — so much so at times that his playing sounded heavy handed.
This concerto is filled with evocative filigree passages for the soloist but they rarely sounded as such in Douglas' hands. One felt at times that he was trying to oversell the piece.
In the finale, he pushed harder still. The combination of too weighty an approach with a liberal use of pedaling made it sound as if Douglas was trying to turn this concerto into something by Tchaikovsky — huge washes of sound and thundering octaves.
While many audience members cheered such grandstanding, this wasn't what Saint-Saens had in mind. Douglas' encore, the Prelude from Debussy's “Pour le Piano,” was fleet but lacked finesse. To paraphrase another well-known quote, this one from “The Fantasticks,” you wonder how these things happen.
— Rick Rogers