The largely forgotten German composer Rudi Stephan’s Music for Violin and
Orchestra (1911) was the 20th century work presented by the Israel Philharmonic
Orchestra in a first performance last week.
The work’s solo part is
melodious, mostly listener- friendly, with numerous changing themes,
interspersed with technically demanding virtuosic passages. Its very personal
musical language is remarkably different from the styles current in its time,
contributing value-added interest to the work.
Soloist Ray Chen performed
with utmost sensitivity, an appealingly pure tone in the melody lines, and
impressive though unostentatious virtuosity in the technically showy
Safely back to the Romantics, conductor Kirill Petrenko
displayed superb command of the orchestral tone colors that abound in Mahler’s
Fourth Symphony. Subtle but noticeable rhythmic flexibility, delicate nuances of
dynamics and clear-cut articulation injected breathing life into the music,
emphasizing the work’s forceful outbursts of energy.
In the final
movement, Maria Bengtsson’s clear soprano, soft, caressing and effortless even
on the highest notes, charmingly captured the naive, childlike intonation of
“Heavenly Life” Mahler is reported to have intended.