La Scena Musicale

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Tippett, Mozart, Elgar Concert Offers Gem and Fire


By L.H. Tiffany Hsieh

Violinist Stefan Jackiw didn’t draw a full house at Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall Wednesday night (May 5, 2010). That’s too bad. He is a rare find.

The newly 25-year-old American, who looks like 15, made his gentle Toronto debut with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, K.216. With his eyes closed, Jackiw swayed and turned. There was no fanfare, just pure and simple. His bowings were long and then short, quick and then slow, creating sweet poetic cadences the way Mozart had intended. By the time the catchy rondo ended softly in thin air, it felt like the icing on the cake had just been licked.

The audience wanted more and received the largo of Bach’s Sonata for Solo Violin in C-major as an encore. Jackiw dropped a few more jaws here with his tender phrasings, subtle colours, and a full range of sound.

The other half of the concert was dominated by Brits. First up was Michael Tippett’s Little Music for Strings. Led by conductor Sir Andrew Davis, the whittled-down TSO gave a careful reading of the score, which Tippett composed in 1946. The piece began with a flat, austere outlook, but ended with a somewhat teasing, festive vivace. Davis wrapped it up in style by turning to face the audience on the last beat.

The main course of the night was Elgar’s grand and complex Symphony No. 1. In this romantic and stormy piece, Davis, who conducted without a baton and in a laidback yet don’t-mess-with-me manner, brought out startling freshness and precision from each musician. There was a sweeping transparency throughout the long four-movement work in structure, harmony, and expression. The orchestra was a hot tamale.

Unfortunately, a fan up in the hall’s ceiling made a small racket during the Elgar. Hopefully it’s been taken care of, so you can enjoy the concert in peace at 7:30 p.m. on May 8 (minus the Tippett and intermission). Or, you can opt for a 3 p.m. performance at the George Weston Recital Hall on May 9.

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