It had been a while since I left a concert feeling like I had been punched in the heart, but Monday night's concert of Rachmaninov, Brahms and Bjarnason brought such high intensity and emotion that I couldn't help but be blown away. The Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel and joined by Yuja Wang as piano soloist, demonstrated dramatic tempi and searing emotion throughout their program. For every inexactitude or minor flaw in the playing, there were countless moments of galvanizing musicality. For every surge in speed, there were contrasting passages with calmer, slower speeds. The wide range in tempo and mood, combined with the overall energy of the performers, was impressive enough to leave me stunned.

Yuja Wang © Felix Broede
Yuja Wang
© Felix Broede

The opening piece, though only ten minutes long, managed to encompass a wide range in sounds and textures. Daniel Bjarnason’s Blow bright, composed last year, was engaging the whole way through. From the twinkling percussion and lilting violins, to the mystical flute and the strings dripping chords like candlewax, this piece was an assortment of fascinating sounds. But even more fascinating was the manner in which, with Mr. Dudamel’s exact conducting, the musicians created a sense of movement from these sounds. The orchestra swept us through the closing harmonies, reminding me of a ship sailing through turbulent seas. Not surprisingly, Mr. Bjarnason says in the program notes that “one of the things I thought about was the ocean.”

I was nervous about the next piece, Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto no. 3 in D minor. This was my go-to recording through high school and college, through times of teen angst or during all-nighters spent churning out an essay on which I had procrastinated. Having heard other interpretations hundreds of times on my iPod, it was with some trepidation that I prepared myself for Ms. Wang’s take on the work. I needn’t have worried. If at first I was on the edge of my seat due to high expectations, by the end I was on the edge of it from sheer excitement. Afterwards, I collapsed against the back of my seat from exhaustion, feeling as if I had just spent 45 minutes engaged in strenuous exercise rather than watching a piano concerto.

Mr. Dudamel propelled the musicians from the most powerful dynamics and careening speeds to some breathtaking passages of more stately tempi. Although the brass blustered a bit too loudly during one of the most virtuosic piano passages, overpowering Ms. Wang, every other aspect of this interaction was essentially flawless. Ms. Wang, for her part, seemed to be enjoying herself throughout the ridiculous displays of virtuosity. Her left hand leapfrogged over her right as she sang along with the orchestra, under her breath, cocking her head slightly to the side, listening intently. Her hands blurred like watercolors. Her sound was powerful and her technique was flawless. During the third movement her speeds approached being reckless, but were always kept in check by Mr. Dudamel. The final toccata and triumphant closing theme were skillfully and beautifully rendered by both Ms. Wang and the orchestra.

After that Rachmaninov, the LAPO could have called off the second half of the concert and I would have left more than satisfied. Although this rendition of Brahms’s Symphony no. 2 in D major wasn’t as thrilling as the concerto, it kept up the energy and emotion of the first half. Throughout the lullaby melodies of the first movement, Mr. Dudamel painted a widely varying pallette of colors and contours, never veering into the saccharine. The second and third movements were just as lovely, but quickly overshadowed by the fourth. The exultant opening of this finale burst upon our ears, and the orchestra finished in the same manner, with a sublime outpouring of harmonies from the trombones. Such exhilaration was the perfect way to end an intense and moving evening. Perhaps, like me, the audience members had experienced every emotion in the human vocabulary during the preceding two hours: the applause was loud and sustained.