Seattle Chamber Music Society’s Summer Festival, July 13
By Melinda Bargreen
It was Augustin Hadelich’s night on July 13– certainly an occasion to celebrate for fans of the popular Seattle Chamber Music Society’s Summer Festival. The brilliantly gifted young violinist played the pre-concert recital (with pianist Orion Weiss), packed with Hadelich’s admirers; then he was featured as first violinist in two major works in the main concert.
It was violin heaven.
Hadelich, who was born in Italy (1984) to German parents, is quickly rising to the “top favorites” lists among violin connoisseurs worldwide. He played the July 13 recital as if transfixed by the luscious sounds coming from his instrument; his total involvement in the music was wonderful to watch and hear. The lengthy, complicated Stravinsky Divertimento for Violin and Piano, a work rarely encountered on recital programs, emerged as a kaleidoscope of colors and effects, always dominated by a strong melodic line. Witty, humorous, soulful, and astringent, this performance found Weiss an ideal match for Hadelich’s musicality.
The Tchaikovsky Valse-Scherzo (Op. 34) that followed featured a cadenza of such blazing virtuosity that the audience laughed in wonder as the soloist finally returned to earth at the cadenza’s end, and finished the piece.
The main concert that followed Hadelich’s rousing ovation began with something completely different. The audience filed into the Nordstrom Recital Hall to see a pair of grand pianos lined up nose to nose, like glossy black town cars in an automobile showroom. Pianists Inon Barnatan and Adam Neiman arrived to “drive” the Mozart Sonata for Two Pianos in Da Major (K.448), a sparkling and elegant work that never fails to please. It got a spirited but sometimes flawed performance from the pianists (some of the inaccuracies arising from attempts to “gild the lily” with additional ornaments). It’s surprising: this is not an easy piece, but it’s not the “Transcendental Etudes,” either.
The Debussy two-piano work that followed, “En blanc et noir” (“In Black and White”), had Weiss and Jeremy Denk as the two pianists, doing a wonderful job with the swooping waltz figures of the opening movement, but a less persuasive job of coordinating the second movement’s precisely timed chords.
The final two works, strikingly different but great pieces for string octet, brought Hadelich back to the stage – along with violinists Ida Levin, Stephen Rose, and Benjamin Beilman; violists Cynthia Phelps and Richard O’Neill; and cellists Ronald Thomas and Bion Tsang. They drew a sober drama from the Shostakovich’s “Two Pieces for String Octet” (Op. 11), especially in the first-movement Prelude, with its virtuoso first-violin part. The feisty Scherzo emerged with propulsive, frenetic energy. It was a remarkable performance of a terrific piece.
Then came the dessert, the Mendelssohn Octet. The eight players attacked this score with the gleeful zest of a Cub Scout troupe suddenly given the keys to the candy factory. In places, the Octet sounds like a violin concerto for that player in the first seat, and Hadelich sculpted elegantly detailed phrases that were beautifully polished at near-impossible tempi. Things got a bit over-enthusiastic in the middle of the Scherzo movement, but only briefly. And as the octet launched the final movement, horsehair flying and fingers scurrying, it looked as if they were headed for a new land speed record -- but with a virtuoso in every chair, the performance was artful as well as exhilarating. At the conclusion, the whooping, hollering audience left no doubt that the musicians weren’t the only ones having fun.