Violinist brings sensuous soul to exotic eve at orchestra
WITH a variety of high voltage and sensual music, the Honolulu Symphony performed a concert of captivating dances with an "exotic touch" on Friday. No dancers were included, but a tremendously energetic conductor and a glittery soloist delighted the audience with their skills and personalities.
In concert: 4 p.m. today
Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Tickets: $15 to $68
Call: 792-2000 or visit www.honolulusymphony.com.
The sensual quality of the program set the pace. An Austrian waltz, a Spanish bolero, a "Turkish" minuet and a characteristic, colorful Russian mix of rhythms could have excited the sleepiest and bitterest souls.
Austrian conductor Christoph Campestrini exuded energy and character, and Lara St. John lit sparkles from her 1779 "Salabue" Guadagnini violin with a teasing and witty attitude.
I mean "attitude" in a dramatic sense. We could almost see St. John's defiant behavior in her dialogue with the orchestra, in particular when she accentuated her short statements. Her singular interpretation of Mozart's "Turkish" Concerto No. 5 combined Romantic affect and tremendous technical skills. With a mind of her own, she conveyed personality and a distinctive edginess.
During her first movement's cadenza she made sure that every note was hers, and the acute sound of her instrument further underlined her energy. But she is not about power or volume. She cares about precision and incisiveness.
In the second movement, in which the violin's lines are the most expressive, she showed how she could be delicate without losing her spirit. Finally, she flew through the technically challenging last movement, a minuet that gives the "Turkish" nickname to the concerto.
Another interesting aspect of St. John's distinctive personality was her constant attention to the conductor as the focal point of the performance. We often see the opposite scenario -- self-absorbed virtuosi and orchestras at their mercy. Her request of acknowledgment from the conductor and her collaboration with him were truly particular.
Campestrini had a lot to do with it. I found myself looking at him a lot of the time. With a very energetic personality and understanding of orchestration, he displayed contagious enthusiasm. His ability to bring out the best from the musicians and to connect with them was remarkable. After working with renowned orchestras in North America, Europe and Asia, he has developed a distinctive lively style that works every time.
Particularly well-conducted and performed was Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite," which gave some of the symphony's excellent musicians the chance to display their skills and musicianship. Particularly oboist J. Scott Janush, cellist Mark Votapek, flautists Lisa Jelle, Susan McGinn and Erica Peel* and their dynamic performances made the piece shine.
Berlioz's orchestral arrangement of Weber's "Invitation to Dance" and Ravel's "Bolero" framed the concert with exciting dance rhythms. Showcasing all the musicians, the "Bolero" left the audience energized.
Valeria Wenderoth has a doctorate in musicology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she also teaches.