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Samuel Thompson

Odin Rathnam

January 31, 2011 at 8:58 AM

On my trip home from Knoxville I started writing about Midori's performances of the Mendelssohn Concerto. That one's coming, as my intention is to complete - but there's been a change of plans.

The reason? I have just heard the Korngold Violin Concerto in live performance for the first time. The soloist was Odin Rathnam, concertmaster of the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra and Artistic Director of the West Branch International Music Festival and Academy (and a new friend), and his partners in performance were Daniel Spalding (music director of the Philadephia Virtuosi) and the American Youth Philharmonic, which was led by v.commer Brian Hong (who is a superb concertmaster).  Yes, a youth orchestra - one that plays with a level of commitment that rivals if not surpasses some of the regional orchestras in the United States.

There will be no attempt on my part to describe what I heard in terms of "violin playing", as I honestly cannot find the words that would justly serve Odin Rathnam. This was an astonishingly compelling reading, one during which risks were taken and conductor, soloist and orchestra were truly of one accord - in service to music. Odin Rathnam is a fully committed and deeply engaged musician whose white-hot focus and stage presence I can only compare to this... ...minus the hair-flipping, of course. =) This deep sincerity and clarity of purpose was highlighted when, upon returning to the stage to accept a tsunami of applause, Mr. Rathnam both praised the orchestra and played, in dedication to his young collaborators, a most sincere Bach D Minor Sarabande.

In the book Deep Sightings and Rescue Missions, Toni Cade Bambara says that "English is a mercantile language" - not one to serve the inner life. Right now, I have to agree - Odin's musicmaking is something that must be heard, so when the opportunity arises, do so. Good night, Sam


From Francesca Rizzardi
Posted on February 1, 2011 at 6:38 AM

Thank you for writing this, Samuel.  You conveyed a great sense of excitement and specialness in this concert.  Congratulations to Brian Hong.  I wish I had been there.


From Samuel Thompson
Posted on February 1, 2011 at 8:22 PM

Francesca - Thank you for your response.   Your very kind words mean much.    What can I say, it was truly amazing.   


From Terez Mertes
Posted on February 1, 2011 at 9:36 PM

 Lovely description, and such touching words of praise, Sam! So good of you to strive for the right words to describe Odin Rathnam's performance, his perfection. I'm with you - English can be a frustrating language in which to describe the ineffable, the sublime. Great link attached to show a comparison instead. I'm assuming that can only be Jacqueline duPre. Have never seen real footage of her, but I've read her siblings' biography of her and seen the movie (the title of which, maddeningly, is eluding me right now. There we go again with the difficulty in finding the right words business...).

And congrats to Brian Hong on what sounds like an impressive job well done!


From Samuel Thompson
Posted on February 1, 2011 at 10:03 PM

Terez - Thank you.   From you, a writer, that means a LOT.

That is indeed footage of Jacqueline Du Pre.   I too saw the movie "Hilary and Jackie", but found myself disappointed - and a bit disturbed, particularly after having read Carol Easton's biography of Jacqueline.   That one is a very informative and well-organized read, as it is a triptych.   In the first third, Ms. Easton talks about Jackie's early years and includes information that has come from research about (not sure this is the right word AGAIN) gifted children.   The second deals with her "rise to fame",marriage to Daniel Barenboim, and a lot about the business:  the third handles the effects of Multiple Sclerosis on Jackie and the condition itself.

Brian was indeed phenomenal.   It's really inspring and refreshing to see that kind of secure and committed leadership in the first chair.   As we southerners say, "That kid's GOT IT!"

Happy New Year to you, BTW.   Could you email me your mailing address?

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