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Favorite Performances

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Published: April 1, 2014 at 2:06 PM [UTC]

I was thinking last night about how much I'd love to get back to Symphony Center (or Ravinia - almost there!) and see another CSO concert - the last one I've seen was nearly two years ago, and I'm itching to see some top-notch classical playing, and soon. When I last saw them, I had the fortune of happening upon a violinist of whom I had surprisingly not yet learned: Gil Shaham.

Gil ShahamHaving been "out of the loop" for a while, so to speak, what a welcome, fantastic discovery! He performed the Walton violin concerto, another major concerto that I've never even opened (ahhh that list is becoming more impressive the older I get), and what an astonishing job he did; I'm sure the almost otherworldly tone quality of his 1699 "Countess Polignac" Stradivarius helped, but his phrasing was just phenomenal: the pianos were rife with a tension that had me leaning forward in my chair, and each phrase was presented with such an intimate delicacy that it felt as if the audience were intruding on a private conversation between him and his (incredible) violin. With the backing of the CSO the performance was simply spectacular, and it ultimately reminded me why the sumptuous, lush 1930s concertos seem to have such staying power.

So, that got me thinking (a dangerous past time; I know): some performances will always stick out in my mind, whether it be an entire concert program or just one piece, no matter how long ago I saw them. Because I love talking to fellow violinists, what are your favorite performances you've ever seen?

(It doesn't have to necessarily be classical, by the way; Roger Waters' performance of Pink Floyd's The Wall at Chicago's Wrigley Field will always be hands-down the coolest thing I have ever seen live...though musically speaking, his Dark Side of the Moon tour from about five years prior was simply phenomenal, and far superior)

From Charlie Gibbs
Posted on April 1, 2014 at 7:24 PM
Jon Kimura Parker playing Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3 with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. He ended the first movement with such a flourish that the ladies sitting next to me couldn't help but erupt into applause. And he gave the finale such a big finish that I came out of the auditorium exhausted.

I saw Lang Lang do Rach 3 a while later, but in my mind Parker edged him out.

From Peter Williamson
Posted on April 1, 2014 at 7:38 PM
Violinists: Ida Haendel playing Sibelius and Beethoven (on separate occasions!)
Ralph Holmes in Brahms sonatas, Berg concerto and solo Bach - various occasions
Josef Suk playing Berg

Beethoven quartet op 127 - Smetana quartet, c.1969
Beethoven quartet op 132 - Petersen quartet 2004(?)
Beethoven quartet op 59/2 Petersen quartet 2006(?)
Haydn quartet Op 77/1 - Sorrel quartet
Schubert - quartet in G D887 - Tel Aviv quartet (c. 1969)
Dvorak Quintet in E flat - Smetana quartet + Josef Suk (viola)
Shostakovich Symphony no 10 - SNO c. Kurt Sanderling (the only time I've seen a Scottish audience on its feet)
Beethoven Missa Solemnis, conducted by the local university music professor (in Hull, UK) - a wizard with Beethoven.
Janacek - Kata Kabanova with Elizabeth Soderstrom

Fairport Convention in Edinburgh (UK) (c. 1976)
Jethro Tull in Glasgow - real instrumental and musical virtuosity, as well as great entertainment.

And memorable for the wrong reasons - Mahler 1, the only performance I've taken part in which broke down completely -the conductor's fault..... An otherwise entirely forgettable occasion.

From Kathryn Woodby
Posted on April 1, 2014 at 7:54 PM
GR Symphony playing Copland 3 and points of Rome-one of the first big orchestral experiences of my life.
Grant Park orchestras GGershwin concert in 2008. Sooo expressive, magical, and fun. Might have had something to do with the company (my future husband-one of our first dates! )
CSO playing Lontano- why is the composer leaving my mind? - 2008 i believe. What a palest of color and sound!
From Laurie Niles
Posted on April 1, 2014 at 8:08 PM
We could have an entire discussion on performances that were memorable for the wrong reasons!
From Michelle Parker
Posted on April 1, 2014 at 8:15 PM
Charlie, that's always what makes a performance memorable to me; if I leave feeling like I just ran an emotional marathon, then the performers certainly did their job! Sometimes spontaneous clapping mid-movement is forgivable, if it was simply that good. And tears too are a good thing...unless they're tears on account of the English horn being a full half-step flat throughout the duration of the New World Symphony's otherwise-beautiful second movement, which was very memorable to me for a different set of reasons.

And Peter: I'm envious of the fantastic performances you've been able to see! I just performed Mahler 1 two weeks ago, and while the wheels didn't fully come off the during concert, it was one of the shakier pieces I've played in a long time. That is such a finnicky, difficult piece...also doesn't help when principles come in a measure early, or people simply forget to come in.

It sounds like there's a lot of memorable Romantic-era music, which is funny considering one of my most memorable concerts I've seen was the Chicago Symphony and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg performing the Bruch violin concerto. Do you think it's just the style of the music that lends itself to conveying such intense emotion, or simply because it's just more popular in orchestral literature?

From Michelle Parker
Posted on April 1, 2014 at 8:19 PM
Laurie, that's a great idea! I'm sure we could all come up with a few of our own that we've seen, let alone been a part of...
From Wayne Rogers
Posted on April 6, 2014 at 10:47 AM
There are few that come to mind:
Gil Shaham also in San Francisco with the St Louis Symphony playing Mozart 2 and Stravinsky violin concertos. Besides the spectacular playing of Gil and the orchestra, they were able to bring out elements in the Mozart to connect it to the Stravinsky. The whole concert was a revelation.

Hillary Hahn recital a few years ago. Her Ysaye #3 was unbelievable.

A Wayne Gregory Ballet (SF Ballet) a few years ago that was so transcendent that it seemed like a new art form.

Hearing a Vivaldi concert in Venice. Expected a tourist trap type of concert and was blown away by how wonderful the performances were and how alive and improvisational the music felt.

Seeing Dudamel conduct one of his first concerts with the LA Phil. The reaction of the audience to Symphonie Fantastique was like the reaction to a rock concert. It was electric.

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