I woke up on Monday morning to the sound of the sweetest violin music coming from my living room. My husband, who attended Sunday’s performance of ‘Beethoven & Mendelssohn’ with me, was watching YouTube videos of Simone Porter, the young violinist who “filled in” at the last moment for the scheduled soloist, Stefan Jackiw. He was muttering to himself as he watched and listened to her play, “She’s just a kid, she’s so young…” and if you were there on Saturday or Sunday, you know exactly what he means. She’s 19. Minds were blown.
The program, in its entirety, was a trip backwards in time. We began in 1939 with Bela Bartok’s Neo-Classical Divertimento. Peter Oundjian (the guest conductor), who has a very pleasing and charming demeanor, gave us a bit of back story for this piece and I really appreciated having a context through which to view it. Now, my daughter tells me that the word ‘divertimento’ means a piece designed for the entertainment of the performers and the audience. While I was very involved in the performance of this piece, entertained isn’t the word I would use. It was both lush and pointedly angular in sound and very well executed. It was so sad though! I felt like it was an ode to Hungary (his home country, which he left just a year later, never to return). It was angry, grief-stricken and nostalgic, rich and dark. It struck me as the musical version of a man coming to terms with the fact that a long term relationship with someone that he loves very much has changed for the worse and there is no way to fix it. It’s an orchestral break up letter….
Next, we travelled back 100 years for Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor featuring this prodigy, this wunderkind who made her professional solo debut at age 10 with the Seattle Symphony and her international debut with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at age 13, Simone Porter. Since seeing her on Sunday, I’ve read lots about her as an “emerging” or a “future” star. Nope. She’s here, baby, and ready to roll. Her exposition is virtuosic and she handles the most explicitly written cadenzas as if they were born in her. I cannot even imagine the depth and breadth that her playing will have in ten years. Add to this, Kenneth Munday’s entreating and emotional solo passage for bassoon, which opens the Andante and the orchestra bringing their unerring accompaniment to the very fast and clean passages in the third movement and you have us on our feet once more, LACO. Now this was diverting!
To send us on our way totally satisfied, our dessert was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4. Not one with which I am familiar, but it expresses the same vital force and joy of life that I have come to expect from dear Ludwig. It is fresh and spontaneous, contains no tragedy and its form approaches perfection. I’m guessing that it’s often overlooked because it follows his watershed symphonic ideal, No. 3, and is surrounded by so many other wonderful works: the “Appassionata” Sonata, Op. 57, the three Razumovsky Quartets, Op. 59, the opera Fidelio, Op. 72, Piano Concerto No. 4, Op. 58, and the Violin Concerto, Op. 61, all of which were created in a similar timeframe. I just love Beethoven’s expansiveness and the finale is a brilliant exercise, contrasting convention and his freewheeling Boom Boom Booms (you know what I mean). It doesn’t call attention to itself like some of the more famous Beethoven finales, but it brings this symphony to a perfect conclusion.