Violin virtuoso is highlight of uneven show
After featuring so many great international soloists from all over the world, the Honolulu Symphony presented another unique star Friday night. This time, however, the virtuoso did not have to fly over the Pacific.
Symphony In Concert
When: Today at 4 p.m.
Where: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Tickets: $12 to $65
Call: 792-2000 or Ticketmaster, (877) 750-4400
Ignace "Iggy" Jang, the Honolulu Symphony's own concertmaster, has performed as guest soloist all over the world. He has won several prestigious prizes in Europe and on the mainland. He champions avant-garde music, and he is a dedicated violin teacher.
But his busy schedule did not prevent him from delivering a remarkable performance of Violin Concerto No. 2, the 1935 work by Russian composer Prokofiev. Under Samuel Wong's familiar baton, and the assistance of his colleagues in the orchestra, Jang showcased his skills with freshness and control.
The piece requires a great deal of technique. Although Jang played the first and third movements with confidence and involvement, it was the lyrical slow movement that made the strongest impact. Simple and charming, but incorporating bravura passages (there are a lot of small black notes in between!) and intriguing semitonal passages, this movement was sincerely felt. We hope to hear him playing more such musically engaging pieces in the future.
To establish the Russian ambiance of Prokofiev's music, the concert opened with the 1947 version of Stravinsky's "Symphonies of Wind Instruments." The work, composed in 1922, is scored for woodwinds and brass. Though dedicated to Debussy, the piece shows no hint of the composer's style; it rather typifies Stravinsky's contrapuntal and fragmentary technique of his Soviet period.
The orchestra, however, missed the intriguing choppiness characteristic of the piece, favoring a more legato approach. Other problems, such as the trumpets' attack -- the beginning of the sound release -- affected the performance. In this succinct piece, accurate precision plays a tremendous role.
Beethoven's Seventh Symphony (1811) concluded the concert, shifting the audience's attention to different century and country, and most of all, mood. The German composer called this work his "most excellent symphony," and years later, Wagner described it as "the apotheosis of dance."
Every time Beethoven's Seventh is played, comparisons are inevitable, given the number of excellent recordings and high-quality performances available. Wong's interpretation appeared a little undertone in the first two movements, perhaps too slow, and at times unbalanced on the brass side. The orchestra did not fly as one would hope.
In the last two movements "Presto" and "Allegro con brio," however, Wong warmed the orchestra. He was actually "playing it" with his enthusiasm and vigorous gestures. From then on, the concert progressed with a forward-motion sprint, and the conclusion was exhilarating.
Valeria Wenderoth has a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she also teaches.