A Gil Shaham encore and sparkling Prokofiev in Philadelphia

09/12/2019

United StatesUnited States Jolas, Beethoven, Prokofiev: Gil Shaham (violin), Philadelphia Orchestra / Susanna Mälkki (conductor), Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia, 30.11.2019. (BJ)

Gil Shaham (c) Christian Steiner

JolasA Little Summer Suite

Beethoven – Violin Concerto in D major Op.61

Prokofiev – Symphony No.5 in B flat major Op.100

This was a Philadelphia Orchestra evening whose conclusion, in Susanna Mälkki’s thoughtful and often sparkling account of Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony, made up for an unimpressive start.

There are certainly some attractive pieces to be found in Betsy Jolas’s output, but the Little Summer Suite that the nonagenarian composer wrote four years ago is not one of her best creations. Playing for a little over ten minutes, it is a fairly routine example of old-fashioned Modern Music, with an occasional sudden percussion-laden outburst.

The next work on the program featured a highly gifted soloist in Gil Shaham. He played beautifully, and followed the concerto with an encore in which he graciously shared the spotlight with concertmaster David Kim, the gavotte from Jean-Marie Eclair’s Sonata for two violins Op.3 No.5, played with bewitchingly hushed poetry. But unfortunately, in the concerto as in Jolas’s suite, the orchestra sounded distinctly, or rather indistinctly, below its familiar best. ‘To make the Philadelphia sound like a not very good orchestra constitutes a somewhat remarkable achievement’ was my comment on Mälkki’s performance of the Brahms Fourth Symphony in her Philadelphia debut five years ago, and it was sad at this return engagement to hear my wife at intermission express exactly the same feeling.

But then came the Prokofiev, which seemed to happen in a quite different world. Sensibly paced, and full of searching feeling in the slower sections of the score, it was enlivened by some brilliant woodwind riffs in the scherzo  (Allegro marcato) – actually my favorite part of the work — and in the comparably entertaining Allegro giocoso finale. If Susanna Mälkki could produce results like this in older repertoire classics, she would surely be a force to reckon with, for even in her least convincing moments there are touches that suggest a keen intelligence is in play.

Bernard Jacobson

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! BBC Proms turns 125 years old – 17 July to 12 September 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera North in 2020-2021 – postponements and plans __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Glyndebourne Festival Opera opens for a 2020 summer season __________________________________
  • NEW! Baritone Federico Longhi’s Rigoletto is part of Parma’s June Verdian renaissance __________________________________
  • NEW! 69th Wexford Festival Opera – 11 to 18 October 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Dresden’s Semperoper reopens with Anna Netrebko on 19 June __________________________________
  • NEW! Berlin’s Pierre Boulez Saal in 2020-21 __________________________________
  • NEW! LMP’s first UK chamber orchestra performances since Covid-19 struck __________________________________
  • NEW! Oxford Lieder Festival – 10-17 October 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Metropolitan Opera (2020–)2021 season update __________________________________
  • NEW! Royal Opera House announces first live concert since beginning of lockdown __________________________________
  • NEW! Semi-staged Das Rheingold on Deutsche Oper Berlin’s parking deck from 12 June __________________________________
  • NEW! A breath of fresh air: Opera Holland Park announces 2021 season __________________________________
  • NEW! Grange Park Opera’s 2020 Found Season – 4 June to 12 July __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2020 Salzburg Festival – 1 to 30 August __________________________________
  • NEW! English Music Festival’s 2020 online series of concerts and talks __________________________________
  • The Singapore Symphony in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • Musikfest Berlin 2020 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Free Review Summary Newsletter

    Search S&H

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! We’ll be back! The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra weathering the Covid-19 storm __________________________________
  • NEW! World Ballet School Day – inaugural edition 7 July 2020 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Longborough Festival Opera launches podcast and extraordinary generosity of the audience __________________________________
  • NEW! The Music Critics Association of North America Best New Opera Award to Blue __________________________________
  • NEW! Lincoln Center honors Pride with a light installation on its iconic plaza __________________________________
  • R.I.P. Dame Vera Lynn (1917-2020): Did we really need Vera Lynn during the war? __________________________________
  • NEW! What price Sherlock Holmes? __________________________________
  • NEW! BBC to show the ROH’s first post-lockdown performance and their other recent music news __________________________________
  • NEW! Woody Allen comes back fighting with a book and A Rainy Day in New York __________________________________
  • NEW! Educating Rita, says who? __________________________________
  • NEW! 2020 Three Choirs Festival – postponed __________________________________
  • NEW! ACCOMPANIST OR PARTNER? PIANIST SUSIE ALLAN IN CONVERSATION WITH JOHN QUINN __________________________________
  • NEW! Need to escape reality? Enter into the magical world of composer David Hertzberg __________________________________
  • NEW! BTHVN2020 – Beethoven anniversary goes into overtime __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month