The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra’s January 7 concert was a large, romantic serenade by two musicians who understand their instruments’ needs—how to be held, how to be adored and how to be caressed.
Violinist Augustin Hadelich performed on his 1723 “Ex-Kiesewetter” Stradivari to Ludwig van Beethoven’s Romance no. 2 for Violin and Orchestra in F major, op. 50. The moment Augustin connected the bow to the strings, the first series of notes grasped my breath and held it captive, never letting go until the final note eight minutes later. “Romance” is an escape from Beethoven’s heavier symphonies and concertos, a light after-dinner stroll with this simpler, haunting romantic melody. The glorious trills and soothing tones were released through Augustin’s beautiful, gifted fingers.
Cellist Alban Gerhardt reached into the depths of the human soul during Richard Strauss’s Romanze for Cello and Orchestra in F major, o.Op. AV75. Alban coaxed the deep voice of the cello (think singer Barry White) to court the audience. At times the piece leapt into a waltz-like 3/4 time tempo, and Alban was a master at wooing the crowd with Strauss’s lilting notes and impressive melody.
Augustin and Alban then partnered for Johannes Brahms’s Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra in A minor, op. 102, “Double Concerto.” Both the violin and cello wove together like a soprano and tenor in a duet. The soloists were immersed in the music, yet they were not withdrawn from the world, and they skillfully presented the music to the masses.
Brahms wrote the piece for his longtime friend, violinist Joseph Joachim, as a sort of piece offering after a falling-out a few years earlier. Joachim sued his wife for divorce over alleged infidelity and Brahms sided with the wife. Thanks to the “Double Concerto,” Brahms and Joachim renewed their friendship again after years of silence, though their relationship did not contain the same trust and tenderness it once had.
Though Brahms’s piece has much focus on the strings, I would be remiss if I left out the allurement of the woodwinds—the bassoon and oboe, for example—which revealed an openness—a finish and yet, an entrance to the score. Or the flutes that float in like birds flying from branch to branch of a tree during the exchange of cello and violin.
Augustin and Alban at times seemed to hold an intense conversation throughout the “Allegro.” During the “Andante,” however, the conversation became sort of relaxed and calming. They maintained a back and forth tête-à-tête, with each patiently listening, then both agreeing in unison.
The “Vivace” brought us more of a dance, the rondo returning us to the excitement and intensity of the first movement. It was a joyous gathering of two friends, perhaps Brahms and Joachim themselves. The march of the strings entered behind the violin and cello until the music lulled into a hush as though there was a pause, a time for reflection on the simple beauty of life and friendship.
Upcoming Performances of Augustin Hadelich:
Jan. 14 & 15, 2011
Brahms: Violin Concerto
Modesto Symphony Orchestra
Jan. 22 & 23, 2011
Dvorak: Violin Concerto
Jan. 28 & 29, 2011
Brahms: Violin Concerto
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Upcoming Performances of Alban Gerhardt:
Jan. 15 & 16, 2011
Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme
Memphis Symphony Orchestra
Feb. 10-12, 2011
Chin: Cello Concerto – American Premiere
Dvorak: Silent Woods, for cello and orchestra
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Feb. 25 & 26, 2011
Dvorak: Cello Concerto
Delaware Symphony Orchestra
Jan. 27-29, 2011
Barber: Medea’s Meditation and Dance of Vengeance
Bernstein: West Side Story: Symphonic Dances
Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances
Jan. 13-15, 2011
Maher: Symphony no. 9
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Jan. 15, 2011
Music and Merlot
Haydn, Shostakovich, Dvorak
Jekyll Island, Ga.