by Don Heckman
Santa Monica, CA. The opportunity to hear an actual Stradivarius violin in action is the sort of rare musical event that would be a delight to most classical music fans. But the opportunity to hear five of the legendary instruments, played by a group of superb violinists from the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, is a memorable, one of a kind music event.
And that’s what we experienced on Friday night at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica in a LACO program titled “Stradivarius Fiddlefest.” The program was a virtual definition of violin compositions at their finest, some classic, some contemporary. The first half of the program included works by Telemann, Moszkowski, Kreisler, Brahms, Corigliano and Franck. The second half was equally compelling, featuring compositions by Saint-Saens, de Sarasate, Ravel, Kreisler, Piazzolla and Bartok.
The focus of the evening, of course, was on the instruments themselves. Dating from the early 1700s, they were crafted by Stradivari himself during his “Golden Period.” And it didn’t take a violin aficionado to fully appreciate the qualities of the instruments – from the lush, richness of their sound to the articulateness of their virtuosity.
But the program, in its fullness, was at its most compelling in the dramatic interfacing between the magnificence of the instruments and the extraordinary skills of the violinists.
Accompanied by the expressive piano playing of LACO’s Music Director, Jeffrey Kahane, the violinists – Margaret Batjer (the LACO’s concertmaster), Chee-Yun, Cho-Liang Lin, Philippe Quint and Kiang Yu – approached their instruments with a stunning blend of enthusiasm, creative intimacy and musicality.
Each violinist found a way to express his or her unique artistry in a fashion that balanced the very special qualities of the Stradivari instruments with the individual demands of the compositions.
As the program unfolded, two soloists displayed especially appealing qualities. Chee-Yun captured listeners with her passionate interpretations of the Saint-Saens and de Sarasate works.
And Philippe Quint was equally intense in his renderings of the Corigliano piece, and joined Chee-Yun in several works calling for two-violin interaction.
In sum, it was yet another memorable evening with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. And, like so many past LACO performances, the “Fiddlefest” offered an immensely entertaining introduction to music not often heard, performed on rare period instruments.
All plaudits, then, to the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra for once again offering a unique and engaging program of classical music at its finest.
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Photos courtesy of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.