Northwest Sinfonietta Plays While the Audience Sips

United StatesUnited States Kodály, Bruch, and Mendelssohn: Mayuko Kamio (violin), Northwest Sinfonietta, Christophe Chagnard (conductor), Pioneer Park Pavilion, Puyallup, Washington, 12.5.2013 (BJ)

Kodály: Dances of Galánta
Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor
Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 in A minor, “Scottish”

The surroundings were relaxed, but the performance was admirably crisp and disciplined. Christophe Chagnard and the Northwest Sinfonietta brought their 22nd season to a highly accomplished conclusion on 12 May in Puyallup’s handsome Pioneer Park Pavilion. (The town’s name is pronounced “Pew-allup,” by the way.) Each of the orchestra’s programs is given three times, and in contrast to the formal concert-hall environments of Seattle and Tacoma, the Puyallup venue allows audience members to sit informally at tables sipping wine while the music is played.

No diminution of seriousness in the artistic result was perceptible in a concert that began and ended with excellent performances of Kodály’s Dances of Galánta and Mendelssohn’s “Scottish” Symphony. The Kodály is not an easy piece to play, as a very famous conductor (S*rg** C*l*b*d*ch* shall be nameless) learned when, at a performance I heard in London many years ago, mixed signals at a tempo change near the end led half his orchestra to think he was subdividing the beat while the other half didn’t, with chaotic consequences.

No such embarrassments arose on this occasion. Orchestral ensemble was taut, rhythms were suitably dance-like, and there were some mellifluous solos by principal clarinet Kevin Morton and his woodwind colleagues. The Mendelssohn symphony, similarly, sounded at once idiomatic and powerfully expressive. Chagnard applied a light touch to both the slow movement and the symphony’s flowing peroration, two parts of the work that can sound maudlin if they are played too emphatically, and the contrast with the dashing scherzo and the Allegro vivacissimo main section of the finale was therefore all the more effective. Again, the orchestral sound was full of color and warmth, and the horns were impressively secure in several testing passages.

The afternoon’s concerto was Bruch’s G-minor work for violin. The soloist, 26-year-old Mayuko Kamio, is already a violinist to be reckoned with. She played her part with gleaming tone, and responded generously to the music’s emotional richness. This was high-octane virtuosity, leading me to look forward with some eagerness to hearing her play the Tchaikovsky concerto in Seattle next January. But aside from the technical brilliance, she also showed herself to be a musician of considerable sensitivity and stylistic insight, so that I shall also count on hearing her one day in the instrument’s more classical repertoire.

Bernard Jacobson