COURTESY HONOLULU SYMPHONY
Sarah Chang captivated the Honolulu Symphony audience in the season-opening performance.
Chang demonic as deft Delfs takes helm
The Honolulu Symphony Masterworks series opened on Saturday night before an audience charged with excitement. The new conductor, Andreas Delfs, proved a vigorous and innovative leader. The music from first-class violinist Sarah Chang and the orchestra made the event a truly thrilling opener.
Saturday's performance in the Blaisdell Concert Hall was simultaneous to Gwen Stefani's appearance in the arena, making parking a true disaster. Like rock star Stefani, the charismatic and spirited Chang was a draw for music lovers. High attendance was also a function of changes of schedule and locations of this season's concerts.
Starting in October, because of performances of "The Lion King" at Blaisdell, four concerts will take place at Hawaii Theatre and two at Mamiya Theatre. These venues are smaller, less accessible and with more challenging acoustics than the familiar Blaisdell Concert Hall. It is possible that subscribers are selecting among the season's concerts to focus on the Blaisdell performances.
The event included much of the canonical symphonic repertoire, from Wagner to Sibelius and Tchaikovsky. The Prelude to "Meistersinger" was a wobbly start, making the Wagnerian fluidity sound a bit torrential, but as the evening went on, the performance got better.
Chang appeared in a flamboyant fuchsia-and-green dress, and with her assertive demeanor she seemed to own the hall.
Becoming one with her part in Sibelius' Violin Concerto in D minor, she delivered her music in a Paganinian diabolic way, but with the charm of an intelligent, beautiful woman. Considered one of the most challenging concertos for violin, the piece requires virtuosic skills, verve and expression.
Chang's staccato and glissando double-stops, fast broken chords, runs and fast scales were effective. Delfs elegantly led the orchestra, and the overall performance entranced the audience.
But the conductor's best effort was Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5. Although the beginning felt unfocused, the piece acquired solidity and consistency. As the "motto" subject passed through the score, making the musical idea more and more insistent, the orchestra became more centered and its musicians subtler.
Scott Anderson's clarinet, Wade Butin's horn, Paul Barrett's bassoon and the brass and strings showcased their skills under Delfs' scoreless and experienced direction. Even though still a little green, the relation between conductor and orchestra has great potential. It is only the beginning of a long, interesting season.
Valeria Wenderoth has a doctorate in musicology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she also teaches.