At Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts Friday night, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra started out with a fresh transcription of Bach’s Chaconne from the Violin Partita No. 2 arranged for full orchestra by Hideo Saito. It was a masterpiece to behold visually, but mostly aurally as the lines of music originally for solo violin were so cleverly intertwined and woven into the orchestral fabric. It was almost just an incredibly ornamented version of the solo violin but presented through orchestra. It possessed and maintained the quality of both solo and orchestral magnificence. Maestro Honeck drew out the right amount of the intimacy and simplicity of the work in its original form, but also the richness the full orchestra unfolded.
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 followed the chaconne and also closed the first half of the show. It is shorter, lighter and a far more good humored work than its impressive neighbors, the unrelenting Seventh and the colossal Ninth.
Composers writing symphonies following Beethoven often found themselves daunted by his example while they worked and then were subjected to adverse demanding comparisons at their completion. The Eighth Symphony shows that even Beethoven could find himself in a comparable situation: His own compositions sometimes experienced the same fate of comparison with more popular earlier works. However, Maestro Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony delivered a performance anything but lacking; it was full of character and quality with the interpretation Honeck chose. It was filled with bustling energy and high spirits to the end.
Augustin Hadelich’s Friday performance of Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major, was an intimate reflection — profound, bitter in the more climactic moments, soaringly angelic in the lyrical ones. The contour and overall sketch was immense, but there was nothing ostentatious or hedonistic about the the playing.
The result proved inexorably brilliant and, within the framework of Romanticism, remarkably eloquent and articulate. Hadelich bared his soul, showing the listeners that side of Brahms that is unpredictable, fiery, compassionate and violent. An extraordinary accomplishment, with an incredibly introspective slow movement.
Hadelich graced the audience with an encore of Paganini’s Caprice No. 5 and for the second time graciously accepted the well-deserved and thunderous applause and standing ovations.
Noah Geller of the Kansas City Symphony was the evening’s guest concertmaster.