Valčuha/Tetzlaff Review-A diverse and well-developed program with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

On June 1, 2017, Juraj Valčuha conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a diverse yet well-balanced program of Joseph Haydn, Johann Strauss, Jr. and Richard Strauss’s works at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan. The evening also featured Guest Violinist Christian Tetzlaff as soloist in a one-movement piece by Karol Szymanowski, played second on the program.

Juraj Valčuha, conductor

 

To shed some light on the selections for the concert, we note that Valčuha, Music Director of the Teatro di San Carlo, Naples since 2016, has conducted before in programs including Szymanowski’s “Violin Concerto No. 1”, 1916. He has remarked about the piece, “It has a lot of things to show for the solo violin and a lot of colors for the orchestra. His way of writing in the beginning of the 20th century attached very specific colors from French music and some of Richard Strauss’ early pieces”.

 This piece has been called “the first fully original 20th century violin concerto”. The music is fascinating, almost eerie and strongly atmospheric. Tetzlaff, long considered “one of the most sought-after violinists and exciting musicians on the classical scene”, played passionately, producing a near ecstatic depth of feeling. The piece is written with great technical mastery and demands the same in its performance. Tetzlaff produced a sound that seemed to float over the various colors in the orchestra. His phrasing was sweeping and assertive. The concerto contains a number of contrasting links- including some taken from dance, the sounds of nature, tambourine inflections- that combined to form an almost fantastic rhapsody. It was a powerfully expressed and lustrous work.

 

Christian Tetzlaff; photo by Giorgia Bertazzi

Joseph Haydn’s six symphonies numbered 82 through 87 are known colloquially as “The Paris Symphonies” because of the circumstances involved in their commission from a concert series sponsored by the Olympic Lodge, a wealthy organization in Paris. “Symphony Number 85 in B-flat Major”, 1785, is known as “La Reine”, (The Queen), as it was the ill-fated Marie Antoinette’s favorite Haydn symphony. The four-movement piece opened the concert and was performed with more strings than are sometimes utilized. The CSO demonstrated a fine engaging vitality, with the opening movement full of stateliness. Valčuha maintained relatively fast tempi in the “slow” movement and the famous “menuetto”, with the finale produced at a rapid pace. There were strict rhythmic observations offering a rich sonority with plenty of presence from the horns.

Maestro Juraj Valčuha

 After the intermission, the full orchestra was assembled and performed two showstopper pieces, beginning with J. Strauss, Jr’s “Emperor Waltz”, Op. 437, 1889. The introduction immediately paints the mood of an imperial court, ultimately bringing forth a set of 5 waltzes, contrasting in mood and tempo, with sustained melodies, syncopated lines between strings and wind instruments, and a joyous if restrained rhythmic certainty.

The concert concluded with a masterful rendition of the Suite from “Der Rosenkavalier”, 1909-1910 by Richard Strauss. The suite opens with strongly defined horns and strings, followed by a delicate exposition of chords, and then a brief burst of turbulence. Next a preface of waltzes begins, ushering in the famous trio and duet from the opera’s finale, before closing with a final waltz motif. The whole is a charming and rich evocation, filled with beautiful passages, extremely popular with audiences, as it was this night. Valčuha led the CSO with restraint and a sure hand, bringing the music to life with passion but without melodrama; the CSO gave an assured and impeccable performance.

 

Violinist Christian Tetzlaff

The concert will be performed again Saturday, June 3rd at 8PM and Sunday, June 4th at 3 PM. For information and tickets to all of the fine programs of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, go to the CSO website

 

 

 

Unless otherwise noted, all photos courtesy of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

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