Hilary Hahn stars at ISO in an all-Prokofiev program 

Stellar violinist caused the near capacity audience to roar as well as clap

****1/2
click to enlarge Violinist Hilary Hahn
  • Violinist Hilary Hahn

It doesn't matter what she plays; violinist and Virginia native Hilary Hahn (36) always produces thundering ovations as she did for Friday's ISO program. The thorny thicket that best describes Sergei Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. 19, had its heavy layers revealed more completely than any previous performance I've heard. Hahn's warm, pitch perfect tone shone through in all the complexities of the Scherzo--unusually the middle movement. It is book-ended by (1) an andantino and (3) a moderato, wherein ISO music director Krzysztof Urbański kept his players in excellent balance with Hahn's 19th-century Vuillaume instrument.

Following at least five "curtain calls," Hahn finally gave in to offering an encore: the Gigue from Bach's Partita No. 3 in E for Solo Violin. I can't recall any other violinist who revealed the excerpt's layers more fully than Hilary.

Urbański opened the program with Prokofiev's Symphony No. 1 in D, Op. 25, ("Classical") from 1917, modeled after early symphonies of Haydn and Mozart and lasting about 15 minutes. Yet anyone familiar with the early Classical repertoire need hear only the opening bars of Op. 25 to identify the 20th century when encountering "wrong notes" and abrupt key changes here and there. Still, because of its maturity, Op. 25 is much better identified with today's audiences than, say, the first 24 Mozart symphonies, which are virtually never performed. Except for a rough start, Urbański and his players sailed through the four brief movements in time with a metronome, and with equal precision.

A suite of 13 numbers from Prokofiev's ballet music to Romeo and Juliet both ended and dominated the program. As it happened, Urbański chose the selections himself; he did not use the composer's Suites 1-3, allowing for considerable overlap. "The Street Awakens" is the most familiar excerpt to me, but all the numbers are lyric to 20th century ears.Interestingly the penultimate number is "Juliet's Funeral" while the final number is "Death of Juliet." Lest anyone is misled into a live burial, Prokofiev's second orchestral suite ends with "Romeo at Juliet's Grave" while the third suite closes with "Death of Juliet."

Urbański conducted the 13 excerpts with panache--well enough to bring the audience to its feet, roaring and clapping again. Oct. 7

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