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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Collaborative Pleasure

Classical Review

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Some classical soloists are distinctive in their idiosyncrasies. Violinist Gil Shaham, who performed with Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra last weekend, rarely plays to the audience. Rather, he turns to the musicians around him, but primarily to the conductor. You feel as if you are eavesdropping on a collaborative pleasure taking place onstage.

  Shaham played the Brahms Violin Concerto with an intense, large and colorful tone. He jumped in with both feet to attack formidable challenges and was wonderfully successful, from incisive drama to lyrical spin. Was humidity a factor in his not quite perfect tuning Friday evening?

  Andreas Delfs led the last classical MSO concert of the season, which began with a stylish performance of Johann Strauss’ Tales from the Vienna Woods, as transparent and buoyant as a breeze blown chiffon scarf. The lighter than air quality continued in Mozart’s Symphony No. 36 (“Linz”). I’ve heard crisper renditions, but was taken by the ease of Delfs’ approach.

  Overall, 2007-2008 was a very good classical season, with many memorable highlights. Erika Sunnegardh was spine-tingling as Salome at Florentine Opera. Percussionists Terry Smirl and Linda Siegel playing Steve Reich’s Nagoya Marimbas in a MilwaukeeArt Museum gallery is a vivid memory. Olivier Messiaen’s Three Small Liturgies of the Divine Presence was profound as performed by Milwaukee Choral Artists and Present Music. Ensemble La Rota’s youthful polish graced a fall Early Music Now concert. The Mendelssohn Octet as performed at Frankly Music still rings in my head.

  Some MSO soloists rose to memorable heights: pianist Adam Golka’s poetry in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 at MSO; Hilary Hahn’s peerless Bach Gigue encore; Yo Yo Ma’s big-hearted humanity in Strauss’ Don Quixote; principal clarinetist Todd Levy’s pathos in the Mozart Clarinet Concerto; Frank Almond’s lyricism in Bernstein’s Serenade; and the angelic voice of 12-year-old Mikaela Schneider in Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms.

MSO highlights were Edo de Waart’s first appearance with the orchestra in Holst’s The Planets, Ludovic Morlot's insightful conducting of Ravel's complete ballet Daphnis and Chloe, and
Delfs’ inspired Bach Mass in B Minor. 

The story continues next season. See you in September.

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