Violin Concerto in D-minor, Op.47
Symphonie fantastique, Op.14
Augustin Hadelich (violin)
New York Philharmonic
Jaap van Zweden
Reviewed by: Lewis M. Smoley
Reviewed: 3 October, 2019
Venue: David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City
Now in his thirties, German-born violinist, Augustin Hadelich, has reached a level of musical sophistication and technical proficiency that are both extraordinary and impressive. Especially noteworthy is his combination of pinpoint accuracy and a cultured sweetness of tone. These two characteristics worked well for Hadelich in a splendid performance of Sibelius’s masterful Violin Concerto. Hadelich’s tonal richness and flawless dexterity combined perfectly, while, in the orchestral passages, Jaap van Zweden brought out the bittersweet sentiments of Sibelius’s lyricism while emphasizing that Nordic chill which sometimes pervades his music.
However, Hadelich’s reading of the first movement was somewhat tame. His affectionate expressivity projected warmth and tenderness that occasionally sounded weepy. Little of the first movement’s dark corners and passionate outbursts were given sufficient prominence. In the slow middle movement, Hadelich’s caressing touch generated a rather meditative quality that seemed to repress deep emotions crying out for full expression or much needed relief. Jungle drum-beats usher in the Finale that sounds rather earthy if not brutal. Hadelich took every opportunity to display his technical skills throughout, and van Zweden maintained an energetic pace, urging the music forward with sufficient drive to imbue it with riveting intensity. For an encore Hadelich performed Ruggiero Ricci’s transcription of the for-guitar Recuerdos de la Alhambra by Francisco Tarrega (1850-1909), a perfect vehicle for Hadelich to display rhythmic continuity and powers of concentration.
Van Zweden and the Philharmonic then gave an impressive, vital and energetic performance of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique. Each of its five movements seemed thrived with assertive strength and propulsive intensity that impelled the music forward without exceeding the speed limits to create a narcotic-induced dream in which an apparently unobtainable beloved haunts her lover in various appearances. Van Zweden emphasized the contrast between the mesmerizingly beautiful idée fixe theme and the more powerfully assertive passages that surround it in each of the first three movements. The often-downplayed Adagio movement, which can sometimes suffer from a lugubriously slow tempo, was notable; the resulting increase in intensity enhanced the music’s dramatic effect. A strong, dynamic, sometimes explosive reading of ‘March to the Scaffold’ was followed by a Witches’ Finale that caught fire rapidly, soon becoming a maniacal satanic dance, both vigorous and terrifying. The Philharmonic played splendidly, with power that didn’t sacrifice clarity and generated an uproarious conclusion.