February 2015

The Week in Reviews, Op. 71: Alina Pogostkina, Augustin Hadelich, James Ehnes in Concert

February 24, 2015 21:09

In an effort to promote the coverage of live violin performance, Violinist.com each week presents links to reviews of notable concerts and recitals around the world.

Alina Pogostkina performed the Beethoven with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

  • The Scotsman: "Runnicles’ shaping of the Beethoven Violin Concerto was completely at one with soloist Alina Pogostkina, who breathed fresh flavours and natural musicality into this well-worn masterpiece."
  • Herald Scotland: "In short, Runnicles is a conductor who matters, with a band which, 30 years ago on the periphery of things, is now absolutely central to music in Scotland. And if that assertion needed demonstration, it was all there on Thursday, with the most delicate, exquisite account I think I've heard of Beethoven's Violin Concerto which, in the intimately-expressive hands of soloist Alina Pogostkina, and the masterly,unhurried, close-up-and-personal care of Runnicles and his ultra-responsive SSO players, was like chamber music, drawing you into its thinking. It was quietly and undemonstratively heart-stopping in its beauty."

Alina Pogostkina.png

Augustin Hadelich performed Lalo's "Symphonie espagnole" with the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra.

  • The Patriot-News: "This is his third concert with the HSO, and the next time Hadelich visits the Forum, you will hear me screaming Beatlemania-style from wherever you happen to be....The orchestra provided as lush a foundation for Hadelich's performance as Michelangelo Antonioni provided Monica Vitti when he lit up the Aeolian Islands with her smoldering grace in "L'avventura." I mean it was sexy, and the end knocked a gasp out of me."
  • The Sentinel: "Soloist Augustin Hadelich proved conclusively on Saturday night that his spellbinding command of the violin has only gotten stronger since his last visit to Harrisburg in 2010."

James Ehnes performed Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

  • The Boston Globe: "Canadian violinist James Ehnes gave a measured, laid-back reading, offering mystery rather than intensity. His encore, the Largo from Bach’s Third Sonata for Unaccompanied Violin, was sublimely elegant."
  • The Boston Musical Intelligencer: "I have long admired Ehnes’ playing from his recordings so jumped at the opportunity to hear him live. He did not disappoint. It was as elegant as ever. Ehnes was sheer perfection."
  • Boston Classical Review: "The presence of Ehnes’s violin tone in the large hall seemed as intimate as chamber music, as he effortlessly projected the finest details of Prokofiev’s fantasy-like score. In the piece’s central scherzo, the violinist dazzled with scorching scales, left-hand pizzicato, slashing martellato, and fast, whistling harmonics, all without losing his impeccable cool. Ehnes received, and deserved, the biggest ovation of the night."

Philippe Quint performed Bernstein's "Serenade" with the Grand Rapids Symphony.

  • The Grand Rapids Press: "Quint grabbed the audience by its lapels and refused to let go, announcing his arrival with noble authority before stepping back for a more childlike and playful romp and a series of technical hurdles he made seem rather effortless. His ringing, singing tone, and rock-solid intonation made for a mesmerizing, serene, fourth movement while navigating rocky waters. His athletic performance of the snazzy finale captivated Friday's audience into prompt standing ovation and two curtain calls."

Ilya Gringolts performed the Harris with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.

  • The New Zealand Herald: "conductor, orchestra and soloist positively relished the very symphonic thrust of this writing. There was no lessening of tension in the faster sections, either, marked by unfailingly idiomatic writing and an almost Stravinskian sense of propulsion. After 20 minutes, a journey had been taken and resolution achieved, as Gringolts gave us his final exquisitely whispered gestures."

Gil Shaham performed the Berg with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

  • Philadelphia Inquirer: "Gil Shaham was soloist, only sometimes achieving full intensity. He had a habit of pivoting between facing conductor and concertmaster, which might have had an intra-ensemble purpose. But it also meant he was sometimes turning his body to eclipse his own sound."

Ji Won Kim performed the Tchaikovsky with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

  • The Sydney Morning Herald: "Violinist Ji Won Kim drew audience approval for her admirable display of technical facility, secure intonation, fluid bow and a beautifully expressive canzonetta. Kim's performance grew more assured with each passing minute, yet the marriage between soloist and orchestra was often uneasy, threatening to derail in a fast-paced finale."

Karen Gomyo performed the Pintscher with the National Symphony Orchestra.

  • The Washington Post: "It’s an able and impressive piece, sending Gomyo, who is capable of fine sound, fingering in nervous skitters across the strings and finally dying out with the windy sound of tuneless breath, a bow scraping not strings, but the wood of the violin. But I was less taken with it than I’ve been with other Pintscher pieces, however glad I was that the orchestra committed to showcasing the work of an important artist."

Roman Simovic performed the Glazunov with the London Symphony Orchestra.

  • The Telegraph: "The soloist Roman Simovic had a delightful sweet-toned lyricism, and an easy, smiling virtuosity. It was just what was needed to reveal the charm in this somewhat earnest, solidly-crafted piece."

Midori performed the Schumann with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

  • ArtsATL: "Even with the orchestra backing off on volume, as they did, Midori’s solo violin had difficulty cutting through. It doesn’t help that Schumann’s music in this instance is not all that interesting or engaging in the first place. Not the best vehicle for Midori, thus disappointing."

Ning Feng performed "Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso" in the Los Angeles Symphony's Chinese New Year Concert.

  • Violinist.com: "He played...with beautiful expression, agility and character."

Daniel Szasz performed Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" with the Alabama Symphony.

  • ArtsBham.com: "As thunder and lightning, a hunt with howling dogs, and a virtual aviary unfolded, Szasz contributed supple and sensitive solos."

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

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The Week in Reviews, Op. 70: Christian Tetzlaff, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Leonidas Kavakos in Concert

February 17, 2015 12:02

In an effort to promote the coverage of live violin performance, Violinist.com each week presents links to reviews of notable concerts and recitals around the world.

Christian Tetzlaff performed the Mendelssohn with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

  • The Sydney Morning Herald: "...violinist Christian Tetzlaff swept onstage to give one of the most gripping, passionate and enthralling performances of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor I have heard. With quick speeds and expressive freedom, Tetzlaff reset the tone of this work to dramatically emphasise surging romanticism over classical balance so that the first movement was not so much a lyrical nod to Beethoven, as a windswept flight of soaring eagles around rocky cliffs."
  • Daily Telegraph: "Tetzlaff’s assurance and daring tempos in the first movement combined with a keen sensitivity and subtlety. Rather than a muscular virtuoso, he is more a thoughtful shaper of his material. Technically faultless, there’s a poetic quietness to his playing which was a feature of his handling of the singing andante section."
  • J-Wire: "Playing the most popular of all violin concertos, the Mendelssohn, Tetzlaff was a sound and sight sensation that sent both the audience and orchestra into wild applause when he’d finished.”

Anne-Sophie Mutter
Anja Frers / Deutsche Grammophon

Anne-Sophie Mutter performed the Sibelius with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra.

  • The New York Times: "Her performance of the Sibelius Concerto was superb, as expected. The accuracy and purity of her tone seem only to have grown in recent years, though there never seemed all that much room for growth. What’s more, this comes at a time when she is taking ever greater risks. What was that little Hungarian bend in pitch early on? Her tone always seems animated, even on sustained pitches: growing, receding, responding, it seems, to some spontaneous urge."
  • New York Classical Review: "She has unsurpassed dexterity and articulation. More than a great violinist, though, she is a great artist, a virtuoso thinker about music with enormous expressivity."

Leonidas Kavakos performed the Sibelius with the Berlin Philharmonic.

  • The Guardian: "...played with diabolical fire and crystalline ice..."
  • The Telegraph: "And they also revealed the deep, soft-edged delicacy of Sibelius’s orchestration, above all in the slow movement of the Violin Concerto, played with heroic assurance by Leonidas Kavakos."
  • The Arts Desk: "..outer movements problematic, core lyricism perfect. How Leonidas Kavakos spun that central legato line, hooking us from first to last in the most conventional movement of the evening. He started unatmospherically, though, and never caught the sense of fantasy with which Lisa Batiashvili so bewitched at the Proms (again with Oramo). The last movement’s “dance with polar bears”, as the great musicologist Donald Tovey once put it, was dangerous in the wrong way, and a lovely bit of Bach by way of encore didn’t seem pertinent. It was good that the other players got to listen, but couldn’t they have prepared Sibelius’s delightful Humoresque No. 5 with their soloist? It hardly ever gets an airing in standard programming."

Itzhak Perlman performed Bach's Violin Concerto No. 2 with the Houston Symphony.

  • Houston Press: "Perlman showcased his virtuosity as the world's greatest violinist. And in a lesser known role, but an equally invigorating and entertaining one, he revealed his passion for conducting with a demonstrably visceral style."

Nick Kendall performed “Spontaneous Combustion” by Chris Brubeck with the Midland Symphony Orchestra.

  • Midland Daily News: "Kendall, who took up the violin at age 3 and is the grandson of the man who introduced the Suzuki violin method to the U.S., is both amazingly skilled and a born showman, and clearly can do most anything he wants with his chosen instrument. His encore, “Meditation” from Thais by Jules Massenet, is a gorgeous 5-minute piece that highlighted Kendall’s sensitive interpretive skills."

Janine Jansen performed works by Prokofiev and Ravel, in recital with pianist Itamar Golan.

  • The New York Times: "Ms. Jansen’s readiness to make her sound almost translucent allowed the wonderfully nuanced playing by Mr. Golan to come through unforced. Even difficult-to-balance moments, like the final violin harmonic that floats like a lonely whistle above low piano chords, were rendered with eloquent expression."

Dalia Kuznecovaite performed the Ponce with the State Symphony Orchestra of Mexico.

  • Worcester Telegram & Gazette: "The excellent violin soloist was Dalia Kuznecovaite, who gave a convincing performance, playing with a beautiful tone and admirable technical facility. Her interpretation of the cadenza was a blaze of harmonics, double stops and rhythmic minefields, which she navigated with ease."

Alina Ibragimova performed the Sibelius with the Cleveland Orchestra.

  • The Plain Dealer: "Ibragimova is an intense and serious artist of great technical accomplishment and impressive interpretive abilities. Her no-nonsense demeanor underscored her total immersion in Sibelius' Violin Concerto, which she played with such energy that the composer himself would have been pleased."

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

* * *

In other news, composer John McCabe has died at age 75.

  • The Guardian: "The gifted English composer and pianist John McCabe, who has died aged 75, was a remarkably rounded musician who was responsible for more than 200 compositions and pursued a busy solo career over several decades."

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The Week in Reviews, Op. 69: Lisa Batiashvili, Anne Akiko Meyers, Simone Lamsma in Concert

February 10, 2015 13:50

In an effort to promote the coverage of live violin performance, Violinist.com each week presents links to reviews of notable concerts and recitals around the world.

Lisa Batiashvili performed the Barber with the New York Philharmonic.

  • The New York Times: "In the Andante, her gossamer, silky sound in the soloist’s opening measures evolved into a richer, deeper timbre, enhanced by liquid trills. Her poise and emotional involvement were matched by the orchestra, which played with the full-blooded sound essential to this piece, which Ms. Batiashvili (who is Georgian) is performing for the first time in America."
  • New York Classical Review: "Much of the first movement is pure lyricism, and Batiashvili, a master of her instrument’s colors, is capable of producing silken tone with anyone. But there is room, too, in this concerto for the intensity that is the hallmark of Batiashvili’s style."

Lisa Batiashvili

Anne Akiko Meyers, filling in for Augustin Dumay, who was ill, performed the Mendelssohn with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.

  • The New York Times: "There is an old-world glamour to Ms. Akiko Meyers’s playing, with her high-gloss, singing sound and her liberal use of sighing slides from one note to another. Although this style suits Mendelssohn’s romantic concerto there is a danger of gilding the lily and reducing the music to salon entertainment. In the fast passagework, Ms. Akiko Meyers was sometimes at odds with the orchestra, but in the most hazardous tempo changes and transitions their interaction was impressively relaxed."

Simone Lamsma performed the Korngold with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

  • Cincinnati Enquirer: "Violinist Lamsma, 28, delivered an inspired performance of this concerto. Her style seemed ideal for this piece. She played its long, romantic themes with an easy virtuosity and a sweet tone, even when called upon to play in the highest stratosphere."

Stefan Jackiw performed works by Ravel, Lutoslawski and Franck, in recital with pianist Anna Polonsky, filling in for Isabelle Faust and pianist Alexander Melnikov.

  • Chicago Classical Review: "The (Franck Sonata's) opening movement’s limpid, swaying lines were performed with fitting nineteenth-century grace, and its final sweeping gesture and resolution were particularly affecting. Polonsky’s accompaniment in the agitato second movement was rumbling, and the pair captured the movement’s shifting moods—aggressive, nervous, rapturous—with ease."

David Coucheron performed Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

  • Arts ATL: "Coucheron’s technical skill has always been there, but his playing seems to be evolving in terms of a wider, bolder and more expressive range without losing capacity for that signature sweetness when it needs to come to the fore."

Vilde Frang performed the Bruch with the National Symphony Orchestra.

  • Washington Post: "Appearing as if out of a painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, with a cloud of red-brown hair, she tucked into the Bruch concerto with an inward focus that drew the listener toward her, pulled into the vortex of compelling sound rather than trying to impress with a huge flourish. Her phrasing was exquisite, except when it was overwhelmed by the orchestra."

Christian Tetzlaff performed the Beethoven with the Seattle Symphony.

  • Seattle Times: "This is the Beethoven as you’ve never heard it before: brilliant, heart-stopping Beethoven, complete with unique cadenzas and an interpretation that ranges from exquisitely reverent to rampagingly boisterous."

Augustin Hadelich performed the Tchaikovsky with the Minnesota Orchestra.

  • The Pioneer Press: "...he wowed the crowd at Minneapolis' Orchestra Hall to such a degree that he received a lengthy partial standing ovation ... after the first movement. Once the piece was completed, virtually every patron was standing, demanding an encore that Hadelich deftly delivered."

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

1 reply

The Week in Reviews, Op. 68: Jennifer Koh, Julian Rachlin, Vadim Gluzman in Concert

February 3, 2015 15:24

In an effort to promote the coverage of live violin performance, Violinist.com each week presents links to reviews of notable concerts and recitals around the world.

Jennifer Koh performed works by "Bach and Beyond" in recital.

  • The New York Times: "Ms. Koh has an allusive breadth of sound — a voice’s quiver, an organ’s force — and stirred an intensity so strong in two mammoth fugues that my ears filled in the harmonies left implicit by the limits of a violin’s four strings. Both sonatas were weighty and steeped in tragedy at times, but never leaden in sprightlier moments. I’d call them monumental, if they hadn’t been so alive."
  • The Spectrum: "Koh’s performance has been two centuries in the making and the audience loved it. Through Koh’s blending of baroque and contemporary music in “Bach and Beyond,” it became clear the works of earlier composers and musicians are alive today, as long as an innovator like Koh is around to play them."

Vadim Gluzman

Vadim Gluzman performed Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2 with the Cleveland Orchestra.

  • The Plain Dealer: "Making his Cleveland debut with Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2, he infused a score that can come off as dry and mechanical with a winning combination of lyricism and vigor."

Joshua Bell performed the Bruch with the Toledo Symphony.

  • Toledo Blade: "Then it was time for Bell, one of the reigning superstars of violindom, and yet, a nice, down-to-Earth Indiana guy at heart. His reading of the Max Bruch Violin Concerto was poetic."

Julian Rachlin performed Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

  • The Boston Globe: "The soloist grabbed onto the outer movements with fearless technique, but the music seemed to speak most clearly in slower middle movement, where Rachlin brought an eloquence of phrasing to Prokofiev’s disarmingly lyrical melodies. The pyrotechnics of the finale on this occasion offered plenty of light, if only a modicum of heat."
  • Boston Classical Review: "Rachlin did soar satisfyingly over the orchestra at times, and he and the orchestral violins created some lovely moments together. But it was a performance notable mainly for those rugged Prokofiev virtues of bright articulation and biting rhythms, not for sweetness of tone or sentiment."
  • Boston Musical Intelligencer: "The soloist Julian Rachlin seemed to be fighting the orchestra much of the time, in an effort to make himself heard without scratchiness; it’s likely he could have projected more effectively if the string section had been somewhat reduced. But in the less furious passages his expressive tone soared and came through clearly, especially in the high register, and the second movement showed this with particular warmth."

Noah Bendix-Balgley performed the Khachaturian with the Pittsburgh Symphony.

  • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Mr. Bendix-Balgley has a superlative sense of musical timbre, although in this performance it took a bit of throat-clearing to get there. His phrasing in the movement felt belabored, and the orchestral quilt briefly came apart. But the second movement seemed to focus his performance: Every color was deliberate, with each entrance and phrase an opportunity for surprise; that lyricism carried into the finale. He used the cadenza by David Oistrakh, for whom the concerto was written."
  • Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "Bendix-Balgley responded with equal alacrity to the various personalities within the music. His virtuosity, particularly his bowing, is irresistible, but the heart that lifts his lyricism is treasurable."

Hyeyoon Park performed Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2 with the Royal Northern Sinfonia.

  • The Northern Echo: "...at the start of the last movement, what every violinist must dread happened – a string snapped. In a moment of high drama Park spun on her heels, swapped her instrument with orchestra leader Bradley Creswick and, without missing a beat, continued to blaze through its boisterous folk dances."

Baiba Skride performed the Berg with the Utah Symphony.

  • The Salt Lake Tribune: "Whether putting on an impressive display of left-hand technique or joining the Utah Symphony's violinists in an extended lament, Skride's command of the concerto was never in question."

Pinchas Zukerman performed Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 with the Budapest Festival Orchestra.

  • Berkeley Daily Planet: "After Mozart’s 5th Violin Concerto, Pinchas Zukerman returned to play as an encore a Brahms lullaby, in which he invited the audience to sing along."

Arabella Steinbacher performed the Tchaikovsky with the National Symphony Orchestra.

  • Washington Post: "This was not the most organic performance I’ve heard, but it was quite enjoyable on its own terms."
  • Washington City Paper: "Famous as the violin concerto is, it’s hard to be surprised by it, though Steinbacher handles it beautifully, if a little hesitantly at first. This may have been by design, though, too: Steinbacher’s playing style—wide vibrato and unhurried, stately pacing—comes off as supremely self-assured rather than meek."

Andrew Sords performed the Arensky and F minor Romance by Dvorák with the Boulder Chamber Orchestra.

  • OpusColorado: "There is no doubt that (the Arensky Concerto) is a virtuoso piece, but Sords’ remarkably flexible bow arm, and his relaxed left-hand not only made this piece wonderfully musical, but created the impression that he was having no difficulty whatsoever."

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

* * *

In other news, seven prizewinners were named in the inaugural Boris Goldstein International Violin Competition, which took place Jan. 22-30 in Bern, Switzerland. They are:

  • Grand prix: Mone Hattori, 15, of Japan
  • 1st place (shared): Aleksey Semenenko, 26, of Ukraine, and Stefan Tarara, 28, of Germany
  • 3rd place: Shiori Terauchi, 24, of Japan
  • 4th place: Arsenis Selalmazidis, 24, of Greece/Russia
  • 5th place: Furong Li, 24, of China
  • 6th place: Benjamin Baker, 24, of New Zealand/UK

All the winners, with the exception of Benjamin Baker, are current students of the competition’s Founder and Jury President, Zakhar Bron. Here is the criticism from Slipped Disc, and here is a defense in The Strad.

Best advice: Listen to the videos (If you can get them to work; I couldn't!)

* * *

More news: Carnegie Hall will celebrate its 125th anniversary next year by commissioning 125 new works over the next five years:

  • The New York Times: "'“New music has to be part of the future of music,' Clive Gillinson, Carnegie’s executive and artistic director, said in an interview. 'Obviously, the heritage is unbelievable — it’s some of the greatest creations of the human race. But it’s still got to be moving forward.'"

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