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Gatto’s Got Substance and Style for US Debut

Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center
09/30/2012 -  & October 2*, 2012
Dirk Brossé : Sire
Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 96 in D Major, Hoboken 96/1
Ludwig Van Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61

Lorenzo Gatto (Violin)
The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Dirk Brossé (Conductor)

L. Gatto (Courtesy of the artist)

Easy to believe that violinist Lorenzo Gatto is on his way to become a classical star, based on his winning 2nd place in the 2009 Queen Elizabeth Competition. Sealing the deal perhaps after hearing his dramatic, US debut with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia Oct 1. To kick off the Chamber Orchestra‘s expansive new season, Gatto turned in a convincing and adventurous performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto.

The concert began with musical director Dirk Brossé introducing his own work Sire, an orchestral narrative commissioned by the Belgium government in 2003 on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of King Albert II’s coronation. The always affable, academic Mr. Brossé, explained the piece in detail, though unnecessarily because his piece has time-lapse literalness of the monarch’s biographical markers of school, family, birthdays, ascension, all cinematically benign. The main musical strength being the disquieted, eerie string effects and resolves, highlighted by the sumptuous playing of first violinist Miho Saegusa and principal cellist James J. Cooper.

Next, Haydn’s Symphony No. 96 (“The Miracle”) seemed skittish out of the gate, perhaps because they were smaller than usual, some players beefing up the pit of the Opera Company of Philadelphia’s current production of La bohème. The ensemble’s orchestral drive essaying deep chamber sonorities and framing opaque solo precision, chief among them the sterling, stoic tone of Geoffrey Deemer’s oboe. In many ways the grandeur of this symphony is more realized, in its profound musicality, at this scale.

Mr. Gatto came on after the break in tux pants, black and white suspenders over an Armani style ivory shirt. With his slicked back hair, he resembled a composite of stars of bygone glamorous eras. Even by concerto standards, this concerto is a rocky musical mountain to scale, with many high-wire solos, as Beethoven keeps upping the ante. Throughout the performance, Mr. Gatto demonstrated what it requires- precision, attack and interpretation. He closed his eyes and zoned to the pulse of the lengthy orchestral intro, then executed an almost stealth, but no less commanding entrance. In fact, for much of the first movement there needed cleaner orchestral handoffs and overall cohesion, but then everything started to interlock, eventual the violinist’s accents worked well with Brossé down-shift pacing. Especially fine was Mr. Gatto’s rapturous playing during the cadenza, composed by Fritz Kreisler.

The ecstatic reception brought Mr. Gatto back for an encore, looking very appreciative and much relieved, the main event over. Galloping through Paganini's Caprice No. 5, the violinist just dazzled the crowd with its mach speed fingering and spiked sonorities.

The evening had begun with the orchestra president Susan Schwartz McDonald, former arts journalist, speaking about fiscal uncertainty of all orchestras and made an impassioned plea for continued patronage. If programs like this don’t bring them in, nothing will.

Lewis Whittington



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