Arts concert review

A Hahn-ds down winning performance

Gustavo Gimeno conducts award-winning Hilary Hahn

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Hilary Hahn performed Dvorak's Violin Concerto with conductor Gustavo Gimeno and the BSO.
Robert Torres

Week 4: Ligeti’s “Romanian Concerto”, Dvorak’s Violin Concerto in A minor, op. 53, Schumann’s Symphony No. 1 in B-Flat, op. 38, “Spring”
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Oct. 15, 2017

Conductor Gustavo Gimeno took the stage, wordlessly accepting the thunderous applause of tonight’s enthusiastic crowd. As he raised his hands, the room fell silent, and a quiet melody drifted easily through the air: simple, sweet, and tinged with darkness, as a cloudy day in a beautiful countryside. In developing this theme and introducing others, the piece’s tone pallette diversifies and blended in dramatic, harmonious, and nostalgic ways. Following this introduction were a series of dance-like sections, achieving an almost jazzy feel with tasteful dissonance and syncopated rhythms, making it an instant hit for me. The piece ended quietly with a violin tremolo underlaid by a melody in the french horn, then with a single loud staccato note by the full orchestra, almost literally making me jump out of my seat and into applause.

After a brief pause, Grammy-winning violin virtuoso Hilary Hahn confidently and effortlessly took to the stage to a tidal wave of applause. Moments into the next piece, it became evident why she was so greatly decorated; her technical control and effortless way of weaving in and out of the orchestra both set her apart and integrate her fully into the magical melodies of the piece. At one point, having just released the dramatic tension, she produced a melody that sounded like gold, glittering through the air, softly mingling with a solo clarinet’s red wisps, mixing, as a sunset, into a beautiful melodic/counter-melodic pairing, evenly balanced between the virtuoso and the rising orchestra.

This brilliant balance continued through the triumphant second movement. Dialogues between the soloist and the orchestra rose and fell, feeding off of each other, building, falling, and finally recounting a dramatic final triumphant theme. Throughout her performance, Hahn never stopped moving, her kinesthetics adding just that much more emotion to the performance.

After a brief encore performance of one of Bach’s Partitas and the intermission, the orchestra returned to play Schumann's Symphony No. 1 “Spring,” a Beethoven-esque piece from the Romantic era; the orchestra used various tempos, dynamics, and tone colours to express the varied emotions of rebirth. Intermittently among the repetitious themes were energetic themes where the music (if not the orchestra) felt as if it were hopping across the stage, often with sustained notes below to give a consistency to the phrases. Melodies were passed around, starting with soli, notably in the woodwinds, then developed throughout the strings and horns, with the solo continuing beneath.

The piece transitioned to its sweet second movement, full of flowing, full-bodied chords. One could almost imagine walking through a rolling countryside, then, suddenly, chancing upon a small village all alight for a festival. The orchestral narration crescendoed into a dramatic, almost “Billy the Kid”-like, western feel, featuring a distinctive call and response format. The focus then shifted to a nearby river with a strings melody reminiscent of “An der schönen blauen donau” before ending dramatically in a classic finish.