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Musical Teamwork

Fab fiddler and CSO make great music together

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Many went to the Gaillard for the Charleston Symphony's latest Masterworks concert Saturday thanks in part to a last-minute, city-wide concert flyer campaign by the musicians themselves. And it turned out to be quite a show.

Maestro David Stahl and company began the all-German evening with a rousing rendition of Carl Maria von Weber's overture to Die Freischütz. From there, it was on to Max Bruch's ever-popular Violin Concerto No. 1, the best-known of the three that he composed. Solo honors fell to emerging violin star Giora Schmidt: a former student of Itzhak Perlman at Juilliard — and of the late, legendary pedagogue Dorothy DeLay (Perlman's own mentor).

Perlman's influence was immediately apparent in Schmidt's superb playing. His rich, buttery tone, lush vibrato, and dead-on intonation were all reminiscent of one of the great violinist of our time. Perlman's intense, often brash interpretive qualities were there, too — but then, Bruch's macho concertos often call for a brusque approach. Schmidt realized the composer's moments of honeyed lyricism and yearning romance to shattering effect.

I had the rare pleasure of interviewing Schmidt over lunch the day before, after sitting in on his morning rehearsal. He paid our orchestra a heartfelt compliment, commenting that he was truly "blown away" by the quality of their work, from Stahl on down.

"It was like I was playing chamber music with them," he raved. And he wasn't just referring to the band's small size, rather their collective precision, sensitivity, and the uncanny sense of ensemble that he felt in their midst.

After halftime, Stahl and company returned to deliver a memorable rendition of Beethoven's glorious Fifth Symphony, without doubt his famous work. Its sense of heaven-storming drama and triumph — plus its recurring "dit-dit-dit-DAAH" theme ("V" for victory in Morse code) made it a potent anthem during the Second World War.

Their performance was tight, gutsy, and downright thrilling. The strings section sounded bigger and juicier than would seem possible, considering its small size, and everybody else sounded well-nigh perfect, save for an insignificant bobble from somewhere in the brasses during the blazing finale.

The relentless profusion of eargasms left me absolutely limp — and more concerned than ever as to how this level of quality could suffer if the CSO's numbers are slashed.

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