Meeting all the technical demands with grace and a tinge of edgy excitement, Richard Lin and the ISO players traversed the quick-slow-quick movements of Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D Major as friends catching up during a stroll along a southern Austria lakeside. With equal aplomb, Maestro Arming was keeping the two entities in check, nevertheless enjoying the confrontation of ideas and opinions. After all, Lin and the ISO, indeed, were ‘catching up’ with somewhat of a changing relationship since Fall 2018, when Lin nailed the 2018 Gold Medal playing with the ISO at the Sept.16 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis finals program.
Now, at his professional debut, Lin’s astuteness, in turns gossamer and opulent, matched the colors emanating from sections of the ISO, sharing with us echoes of Beethoven’s 1806 Concerto for Violin and Orchestra which, like Brahms’ work, at its premiere in 1879, wasn’t well-received. Nevertheless, both have become beloved since. Perhaps, in each case, the intensity of interaction between soloist and orchestra was off-putting at first hearing. We must listen attentively to catch the nuances of development to which Marianne Williams Tobias draws our attention in her discerning program notes, albeit, “The development and recapitulation are colored by harmonic adventures, rich textures, striking rhythm, and heavy orchestration.”
Brahms, a virtuoso pianist, makes unusual demands on the violinist and on the orchestra equally in their emotive solo moments and in the heat of substantiating their points of view. As an over and under-riding each other, this layered intensity can be overbearing, yet with what happened between Lin and the ISO players was thrilling. Each held their own, the violinist proving virtuosity with a lovely cadenza, to which the ISO players approvingly listened, and in turn, the violinist attentively listening to the oboe solo, not at all put upon to stand and wait. The audience on Saturday, of which I was a member, showed its delight.
Part two brought us into equally vivid occurrences. Leos Janacek based Taras Bulba on Gogol’s novella of the same name, musically depicting three episodes in a bloody confrontation that frankly left me confused when I tried to read Gogol and gave it up. Let’s just say the ISO playing was superb, once again putting the oboe front and center, as it was in the Brahms Concerto. Much more to my ability to grasp the story was Antonin Dvorak’s totally delightful Slavonic Dances, published as Opus 46 in 1878 and Opus 72 in 1886. There’s a large dose of genius in layering new melodies upon long-standing ethnic rhythms, resulting in joyful listening, and an urge to get up and dance. The overall fun of the programming was to feel the connections between the three composers and gain an understanding of the influence on many levels.
Next up for ISO: Oct. 24-26, Mozart and Bruckner; Tickets at: 317-639-4300; or IndianapolisSymphony.org
Find upcoming IVCI 2019-2020 programs here: https://www.violin.org/laureate-series
Photo by Denis Ryan Kelly, Jr.