The Week in Reviews, Op. 305: Pekka Kuusisto; Alina Ibragimova; Augustin Hadelich; Itzhak Perlman

January 14, 2020, 2:25 PM · In an effort to promote the coverage of live violin performance, each week presents links to reviews of notable concerts and recitals around the world.

Pekka Kuusisto
Violinist Pekka Kuusisto. Photo by Maija Tammi.

Pekka Kuusisto performed the U.S. premiere of Nico Muhly's Violin Concerto "Shrink" with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

Alina Ibragimova performed Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Augustin Hadelich performed Paganini's Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major with the Houston Symphony.

Itzhak Perlman performed the Beethoven Violin Concerto with BYU Philharmonic.

Stefan Jackiw performed the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the Jacksonville Symphony.

Esther Yoo performed Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major with ProMusica Chamber Orchestra.

Simone Porter performed the Sibelius Violin Concerto in D Minor with the Santa Rosa Symphony.

Jonathan Godfrey performed works by Bach with Mercury.

Please support music in your community by attending a concert or recital whenever you can!


January 16, 2020 at 10:24 PM · I saw the Miro String Quartet play on Wednesday, Jan 15, in Denver CO. They played Mozart's "The Hunt", Beethoven's "Harp", and Schubert's "Death and the Maiden" quartets, with the Lento from Beethoven's Op 135 as an encore.

The quartet largely has a balance of the first violin against the other three voices, which is an arrangement I tend to like - This is not an aspersion at the other three players, who generally presented a more blended sound and framework for the first violinist to work inside of and out of, but also stood out nicely when their parts called for it, so that no one was lost in the mix. The arrangement reminds me of the sound of the Hungarian String Quartet, with the sound of Zoltan Szekely always recognizably and fluidly cutting through without dominating.

I was incredibly impressed with the sound and phrasing of first violinist Daniel Ching, who played with a very fluid cantilena, as well as any number of subtle bow strokes. No matter the tempo (and it got pushed to the limit), his sound was always very deep and rich, and no detail was lost to any smudging. He had a very subtle use of bow that let the instrument speak very freely without a pressed sound, and a very free and relaxed vibrato that was always being subtly varied. I think a lot of soloists that I've heard that seem to want to punch out every note without thinking of how to tie phrases together could heed this approach to their benefit.

The cello played solos in the Schubert in a very graceful and understated manner, with a mellow tone and beautiful phrasing, and the viola parts tended to be more supportive, aside from a very beautifully played duet in the "Harp" with the second violin. The second violin matched the energy of the first when called to do so as response, and also blended very nicely with the first violin when playing figures in harmony with the first, showing that he too has a great individual sound, but the key is that the quartet was really tight and together.

The framework of the three voices playing so much as one gave the first violin a good deal of room for a very tasteful and individual rubato, and to phrase very freely. The only oddity in phrasing to me was in the (I believe) first variation of the Death and the Maiden, where the first violinist plays a figure that rises and then falls with a pair of 16th notes. This was played with the first of each of these 16th notes a bit clipped so that it was almost like a stifled cry, and like the first note is a grace note for the second instead of with a more equal metrical weighting, that to me sounds more like a sigh. I find the former a little unnatural sounding, but I'll call that a small matter of preference.

Anyhow, I could go on, but SEE THIS QUARTET! They are the real deal. This is up there with the best concerts I have ever seen.

January 17, 2020 at 12:36 AM · Christian, thank you for sharing your impressions of the Miro Quartet, sounds like a wonderful concert!

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