Thoughts on the Korngold performance at the PSO – Doug Bauman

Nikolaj Znaider, violin, signs autographsFirst, let me say overall, that I really like the Korngold performance Friday, especially the first and third movements, which were flawless! I also like violinist Nikolaj Znaider, his flair is especially appealing. That look he gives the audience and even the orchestra is striking. I saw and heard him play last season as well, so I know how good his playing is.

I believe I have a pretty good ear for music. The piece by Korngold definitely had some overtones of distinctive 'dissonance', likely built in on purpose, especially in the slow movement, but only in the solo violin, and not so much in the orchestra. I had to compare, so before and after the performance Friday night I listened to a performance by Hilary Hahn:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRkuHKc9YJQ

Jump to 6:42 to see what I mean. This specific dissonant note was played the same by Hahn and Nikolaj Znaider. However, and this is my dilemma, I believe I heard way more dissonance throughout the Znaider performance, and for the most part, very little in the Hahn performance. More importantly, I can't deny to myself that because of that, I like the Hahn performance more, yet I know that Znaider did a great job. So why am I so torn?

dissonance (Latin dis-, "apart" + sonare, "to sound") — considered unstable (or temporary, transitional).

Although dissonance can sometimes be considered 'unpleasant' to the ear, it is indeed used cleverly all over the place to superb effect, to the point where it becomes 'interesting'. But in the Korngold violin concerto, I found it rather unpleasant more often than not with Znaider's performance, yet not so much with Hahn's performance. So the real dilemma is to try to figure out which performance more closely resembles what Korngold intended. Did Hahn change some of the notes to make them sound more 'pleasant', my classical definition of beauty, and Znaider play it the original way, or was it the other way around?

You tell me. Anyone who attended the concert Friday, feel free to listen to this link, and let me know your thoughts in the comments.

PSO musicians? Please chime in. Nikolaj Znaider, please comment as well (do you read our blog?), conductors? Thanks!

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Mar 29