Young virtuoso strings together energy, emotion in rousing concert
Violinist Koh, conductor Milanov and the Honolulu Symphony combine for a dynamic program
AFTER THE Hawaii Opera Theatre season ends, post-opera blues seem to strike a lot of music lovers. The concert that immediately follows had better be an exciting one, with great artists and memorable melodies. Friday night's concert helped us move on and remember how symphonic music can be exciting, too.
Two energetic personalities and the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra performed a dynamic and tuneful program that indulged the audience with unforgettable themes. On the podium, Rossen Milanov conducted an attentive orchestra with passion and eagerness. In the spotlight, violinist Jennifer Koh displayed her virtuosity and musicianship with exceptional ease. The program included Copland's "Appalachian Spring" (1944), Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D Major (1878) and Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G Minor (1788).
In 1994, Koh won a silver medal at the Tchaikovsky violin competition in Moscow with the violin concerto. Her remarkable virtuosity, musical maturity and expressive fluidity combine in a distinctive personal style, making her a truly great artist. Her romantic, passionate approach does not take away from precision and depth.
When a well-known virtuoso plays, we know that the concerto's fast sections will keep us on our toes. But we can tell a great musician from the slow passages. The lyrical Adagio offered Koh the opportunity to show her natural expression with no exaggerated romantic gesture, but rather with balanced yet moving phrasing.
MILANOV'S vigorous motions marked rhythms, dynamics and volumes with clarity and precision. In Copland's piece, in which jerky interjections alternate with lyrical passages, he made certain that all the musical material was precise and clear. It would be great to see "Appalachian Spring" as a ballet, the way it was conceived by Copland. All the jolty rhythms would make more sense.
When working with Koh, the conductor absorbed her enthusiasm, added his own fervent style, and gave it back to the orchestra. This successful equation proved a strong performance.
Mozart's Symphony in G Minor concluded the concert on a high-energy note. The work is the quintessence of classical balance. You can almost "see" the sonata form in movements one, two and four. It was composed in the key Mozart used in his most agitated and tragic large works, and the orchestra delivered that vigor. Ending with the same G minor key it started with, the concerto closed the evening on a very forceful note.
Valeria Wenderoth has a doctorate in musicology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she also teaches.