Music Review: HILARY HAHN and PAAVO JÄRVI (LA Phil) RANDALL GOOSBY and RODERICK COX (LACO)

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by Tony Frankel on March 21, 2022

in Music,Theater-Los Angeles

Randall Goosby with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Roderick Cox conducting

Now, why isn’t Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto played more often? It’s ridiculously beautiful in the first two movements, and fiery in the last. In fact, this may be the best solo work with orchestra of the three that Barber wrote. And Hilary Hahn performing it today with the LA Phil? Well she took what is basically a collage of musical delights and gave us jaw-dropping beauty. I especially enjoyed the blistering third movement in which she made every note distinct. Technically Hahn is flawless, but it’s interesting to note that her performance is almost partly detached emotionally, which I think gives her a certain introspection not found in many other violinists. Hahn is, no doubt, a virtuoso. Her tone isn’t as full as some, say Augustin Hadelich, but her overall drive and determination puts her in the same ring as our greatest soloists. (Check out our review of her solo Bach CD.)

That detachment was much more present today then when I saw her performing the Brahms Violin Concerto last October. She was also dressed much more regally then; today she had on a tight-fitting sleeveless black tank, with a multi-colored flowing toile skirt that looked like she was about to board a circus pony. Also missing in Disney Hall from that Kennedy Center performance was D.C.’s sophisticated audience: here in L.A. were rustling programs, dropped phones, and speaking — so much so that our conductor halted the beginning of Barber’s second movement.

From the podium we had guest conductor Paavo Järvi, Artistic Director of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie (among many other global positions). Sophisticated, emotional, regal, and sensitive, he brought the most luscious sounds from the horns and woodwinds throughout the program, especially during the pitch-perfect rendering of Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony. The Estonian-American conductor has a profound perspicacity regarding the connection between Dvořák’s themes, harmonies, sonorities, melodies, tempos, and deep patterns.

We also had an LA premiere from Arvo Pärt, whose 9-minute salute to Gustave Eiffel and his tower was created after he heard how well Järvi, a fellow Estonian, interpreted his work. This work for chamber orchestra began as atmospheric (which few do better than Pärt), but into a slow waltz of plucked violins and singing violas, developing into lush strings in all sections. Then he pulls back — as if this is the wind encircling Eiffel Tower — with chimes, bass drum, xylophone, and vibraphone making sneaky entrances. Truly one of the masters most gorgeous and enchanting works.

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Meanwhile, across town, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra was having an happening of its own. Randall Goosby has proven to me that he is without a doubt the master of the sweetest tones I have ever heard on the violin. With a buttered cream technique that belies the perfect fingering and light but firm bowing, he stands out from all of his fellow violinists. Why? He has created a silky sound that nonetheless can be heard to the back of the house at Pasadena’s Ambassador Auditorium. This is no showman — the violin is in his soul, and will surely reach yours. He performed Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra led by guest conductor Roderick Cox, who I reviewed at Disney Hall with the LA Phil, immediately recognizing him as a superior leader chockablock with humbleness. When he hushed the players during Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, he educed an aural level fainter than that of pianississimo. If someone asked me who could ever replace Dudamel should he retire, I’d say Maestro Cox.

LACO photos by Brian Feinzimer

LA Phil and LACO reviewed on March 20, 2022

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