Shaham brings fresh life to Tchaikovsky with New World Symphony

By Lawrence Budmen

Gil Shaham performs the Korngold Violin Concerto this weekend with the Cleveland Orchestra at the Arsht Center. Photo: Luke Ratray

Gil Shaham performed Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with Cristian Macelaru and the New World Symphony Saturday night at the Arsht Center. Photo: Luke Ratray

Gil Shaham is one of the most technically assured and reliable virtuosos on the concert stage. The violinist returned to the New World Symphony Saturday night for a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto at the Arsht Center.

Shaham always managee to infuse the most oft-played works with new life and his reading of the Tchaikovsky was no exception. With exceptionally strong teamwork with guest conductor Cristian Macelaru the result was a freshly conceived and exciting performance.

From the violin’s initial entrance, Shaham’s burnished tone and impeccable intonation caressed Tchaikovsky’s melodies. The violinist’s aristocrat shaping of the second theme was one of many reinvigorating details that gave the music new life. Throughout the first movement, Shaham struck a near-perfect balance between romantic passion and classical restraint.

He brought out the yearning and aching sadness of the Canzonetta, with soft playing that approached a whisper. Shaham was not afraid to bend or stretch a phrase, yet his interpretive choices were always musically astute and never exaggerated. He brought a touch of gypsy paprika to the finale, breezing through the twists and turns with abandon.

Apart from a few places where the orchestra was too loud, Macelaru offered outstanding collaboration. He and the orchestra followed Shaham through all his shifts of tempo and melodic line, turning on a dime. The winds  were outstanding in the solos of the second and third movements.

Prolonged applause, much of it from the New World players, brought Shaham back out for an encore of the Gavotte from Bach’s Violin Partita No. 3. Here again with the elegance and clarity of Shaham’s playing, the music emerged with directness and a fine sense of Baroque simplicity and style.

Macelaru is a University of Miami graduate and currently resident conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra (which plays at the Arsht Center in February). He led a well-proportioned reading of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6.

Cristian Macelaru

Cristian Macelaru

This was a young conductor’s view of Beethoven’s “Pastorale” symphony, carefully charted–perhaps too carefully. At times a little more spontaneity would have been welcome.

The opening movement was on the cool side but gradually gathered momentum. String sonority was refined and there was welcome detailing of often obscured inner figurations. The “Scene by the Brook” was measured but with a consistent flow of forward motion. There was considerable energy in the third movement gathering of country folk but, in the trio, Macelaru let go of the reins and allowed the music to unfold with uninhibited rustic vigor.

The crucial horn passages were accurately assayed and the storm thundered impressively. The final hymn of thanksgiving emerged broad and lyrical, the unanimity and richness of the violins standing out in a splendidly played performance.

The New World Symphony repeats the program 8 p.m. Monday at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach. Arnaud Sussman is soloist in the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto instead of Shaham.; 800-572-8471.

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Sun Jan 10, 2016
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