PIONEER PRESS (MINNESOTA)

Violinist Hadelich delivers a jaw-dropping Ligeti concerto
For violinists, playing Gyorgy Ligeti's concerto is something like pulling on skates and plummeting down a steep, winding ice-covered ramp at high speed.
As degree of difficulty goes, it's one of the toughest violin concertos a soloist can attempt, demanding the most athletic of bowing arms, dexterous fingers, bottomless fonts of adrenalin and a funeral cantor's gift for distilling grief. When done well, it's a fascinating musical journey, quite unlike any other piece ever written. When done exceptionally well, it's a jaw-dropper.
You can put the performance that violinist Augustin Hadelich delivered with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra on Friday morning into the jaw-dropper category. Navigating the Ligeti concerto's demands with enough energy to exhaust an observer, Hadelich turned in a thrilling performance that might end up being one of the year's best.
While Ligeti indulged some pretty avant-garde inclinations over the course of his career, the 20th-century composer's Violin Concerto bears little of the dissonance or noisy nature often associated with experimentalism. Yes, there's some occasional chaos, but it seems some sort of primordial ooze from which the soloist emerges to assert his voice.
And what a voice Hadelich's violin has. It sang mournfully, plucked vigorously above a choir of ocarinas and exploded into hoarse shouts, the horsehair of Hadelich's bow fraying and flying. Even when the work was at its quietest, the violinist created complex layers of emotion, as when the meditative fourth movement seemed to confront darkness with equanimity. And the SPCO was almost equally impressive, conjuring up soundscapes quite unlike anything else you'll encounter. The resulting ovation inspired multiple bows and a breathtaking Niccolo Paganini Caprice from Hadelich. His is a name to remember.
PIONEER PRESS (Minneapolis/St. Paul) - January 2012

 

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