Music Review: HADELICH AND MENDELSSOHN (Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra)

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by Tony Frankel on October 27, 2023

in Concerts / Events,Music,Theater-Los Angeles

It’s always fascinating to come for a headliner and be completely bowled over by other parts of the program. The draw for Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s two performances last weekend was Augustin Hadelich, one of the world’s greatest violinists, performing Mendelssohn’s melodic Violin Concerto in E minor at The Alex Theatre. I have seen the Juilliard-trained Hadelich on five occasions, and each time it is a revelation. Grounded yet ethereal, intense yet sunny, jocular yet serious, the 39-year-old played his 1744 Leduc del Gesù violin (loaned exclusively and for an extended period of time to Hadelich through the Tarisio Trust, the patronage arm of the fine instrument dealer and auctioneer, Tarisio), transforming the Mendelssohn from a violinist’s showcase into an intimate and beautiful experience. Even when he used a whirlwind tempo, his notes were warm and clearly articulated.

Augustin Hadelich performing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with LACO

Extraordinarily in sync with the Italian-born violinist (a triumph considering all of the piece’s many time changes), Music Director Jaime Martín gave a joyful, avuncular accompaniment with LACO had muscle and drama, yes, but also a gentle, smooth, and lyrical interpretation, making the concerto all about Hadelich. That’s a valid interpretation given the soloist’s superior technique of crystal clear top notes and precise, incredibly strong trills. His soulful interpretation rendered the Mendelssohn so emotional and sensitive that it actually roused the spirit. Indeed, you could sense the audience sitting on their hands after the turbulent first movement (Allegro molto appassionato), because, while less so for LACO audiences, applauding during breaks in a concerto have become de rieguer. But Mendelssohn connected the movements into an uninterrupted span of music because he, as a performer, found mid-composition applause to be distracting. It is in part because of Mendelssohn that the modern tradition of holding applause to the end of a work came to be standard practice. For his encore, Hadelich his own arrangement of of an Appalachian tune by bluegrass fiddler Howdy Forrester, the Wild Fiddler’s Rag.

Augustin Hadelich performing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with LACO

I’ve wondered this before: Is it possible that Hadelich’s insight was born of adversity? At 15, he was badly burned and nearly died when a fire consumed his family home. Grafts were needed on his face, his abdomen, and his bow arm — yet somehow four critical fingers on his left hand were uninjured. The work it must have taken to recover and become a world-class violinist is incomprehensible. His story is just as inspiring as the glacier-carved mountains of Yosemite.

Composer and vocalist Dai Wei performing her Invisible Portals with LACO

The first half opened with the West Coast premiere of composer and vocalist Dai Wei‘s Invisible Portals, a short electro-orchestral meditation co-commissioned by LACO that received its world premiere at Carnegie Hall last year. The composer was not only in the house, but on the stage. She told us that her piece was inspired by working with performers and musicians in the Tibet region, using the word “Shambhala,” which is a spiritual kingdom In Tibetan Buddhist tradition. And that’s precisely what we got. As far as new works that can only be called “soundscapes,” Wei, recording her own vocals in front of us as playback with LACO, offers something we rarely get in such pieces: emotion. Normally, when brass starts blowing air through their horns, it’s a sign that it’s a piece to be enjoyed by the musicians, not the audience. Yet there was a plaintive, ethereal magical quality by utilizing these unique sounds that transported us to such a realm.

 Music Director Jaime Martín leads LACO in Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, Jupiter

With a bright tempo, LACO concluded after intermission Mozart’s oft-played Symphony No. 41 in C major, “Jupiter.” Maestro Martín’s jovial, convivial, coaxing, loving leadership created an excitement with a symphony that can sometimes be played boring and sluggish. The well-chosen tempi brought out every nuance of this great score with a wonderful blend of emotion and vitality. The players milked every ounce of beauty from each note with such emotion that I felt like I was hearing this piece with a new set of ears. The greatest revelation was watching players as they mastered Mozart’s exhilarating explosion of counterpoint in the final movement, during which five independent musical themes from the movement are simultaneously combined, creating a stunning musical fireworks display. And yet, as part of this perfection, Martín brought out romanticism that balanced the piece’s flair with astounding beauty. And we actually got an encore with Mozart‘s Overture to The Marriage of Figaro. It was a fizzing festive finale to a fantastic evening.

Composer and vocalist Dai Wei performing her Invisible Portals with LACO

photos by Brian Feinzimer taken on Oct. 21, 2023, at Glendale’s Alex Theatre

Hadelich and Mendelssohn
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Jaime Martín, conductor
Augustin Hadelich, violin
reviewed Oct. 21, 2023, at Glendale’s Alex Theatre
for more info, visit LACO

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