Sarah Chang

It’s been a while since I’ve written here.  It’s good to be back.

Did you ever go to a concert and then when you read the review in the paper afterwards you wonder whether you and the reviewer were actually at the same show?

Well this week I can say for certain that we were.  As fate would have it my lovely wife and I had tickets right next to the P-G’s music reviewer Andy Druckenbrod. An amiable enough fellow, clad last night in tan and beige and with reporter’s pad in hand, soon after he sat down (but before the concert began, of course) he and I had a little chat about musical prodigies.

We chatted a bit about prodigies because Sarah Chang was on the program. Sarah Chang who was once was a prodigy herself and had as Andy wrote more than ten years ago, navigate from wunderkind to adulthood. Looks like she made it.

Tonight, she played the Bruch Violin Concerto #1  – the same piece she used as an audition piece for Juilliard when she was 5 going on 6.

Talk about prodigies.

Andy liked the performance:

Chemistry also is an issue between musician and piece, and many a solo violinist has tried to fit into a work that just isn’t them. It’s certainly been the case with Sarah Chang over her career. But Friday night Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 fit her even better than the shiny black-and-gold dress she wore (surely a coincidence?). Ms. Chang excels at the Romantic repertoire, and she drew an incredibly rich timbre throughout much of the work. In the low strings, it was an oaken sound, dark and almost sensuous.

And Mark Kanny of the Trib really liked the performance:

The first half could hardly have concluded more successfully as violin soloist Sarah Chang was in especially good form and gave her all in a torrid and personal performance of Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1. Her tone production had impressive steadiness and depth, which she used for an intense expressive range.

There were moments when Chang’s vibrato was laid on too thickly, and places where she minimized rhythmic details. But her passionate interpretation carried all before it.

I thought it was fine. Just fine.

Though I am getting ahead of myself. The concert opened up with a decent performance of the Overture to Oberon by Carl Maria von Weber. As far as I could tell, the playing was clean if a bit dry. The orchestra solid but only hinting at the exuberance one could sense was lurking just beneath the surface.

Sequoia, by Joan Tower was, according to Tower herself (who spoke to the audience before the piece was played), an early work. She said that in early works composers tend to “overdo” things. And she amusingly apologized to the orchestra for the piece’s difficulty. She needn’t bother. They handled every shifting tone color quite well. It’s an amazing piece of ever shifting textures and rhythms.

Balancing out the Tower was a mainstay of the orchestral repetoire, Daphnis and Chloe by Maurice Ravel. It too had ever shifting tone colors, ever shifting textures, but a musical universe separates Ravel from Tower. This is not a criticism of either composer, let’s be clear. Each was brilliant and brilliantly played.

I gotta say that it was a good performance, but not a great performance. And if anyone remembers their Woody Allen, this is the part where Hemingway would punch me in the nose.

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Oct 30