Calissical Review: Music for Violin and Orchestra

Review of German composer Rudi Stephan’s 'Music for Violin and Orchestra' (1911) presented Dec. 5 by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

Israel Philharmonic Orchestra 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
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 passages.
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.