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Nathalie Stutzmann ignites the Romantics

Verizon Hall
10/24/2019 -  & October 25, 26, 2019
Felix Mendelssohn: Hebrides Overture (Fingalís Cave), op. 26
Max Bruch: Violin Concerto no. 1 in G minor, op. 26
Johannes Brahms: Symphony no. 2 in D major, op. 73

David Kim (violin)
Philadelphia Orchestra, Nathalie Stutzmann (conductor)

N. Stutzmann

Conductor Nathalie Stutzmann turned a standard romantic era program with the Philadelphia Orchestra into a substantive study of the inner drive of the symphonics of Mendelssohn, Bruch, and Brahms. Stutzmann summoned a depth of sound and immediacy with impressive subtlety in the October 24 concert, the first of three performances in Verizon Hall.

Stutzmann has a dual career as an acclaimed contralto on the opera stage and in the concert hall. You sense that she brings a different interpretive stamp to classical orchestral repertory. Her precision and passion are now just as evident coming from the conductorís podium.

There is palpable energy between Stutzmann and this orchestra. The maestro sometimes uses a baton sometimes not for her expressive gestural conducting that comes through her whole body. The concert opened with Mendelssohnís romantic Hebrides that brought the full thrust of the orchestra right out of the gate. The depth of sound, clarity and especially the striations of the strings recalibrated the acoustics in the concert hall.

It was followed by the complex drama of Bruchís Violin Concerto no. 1, and what a pleasure it was to hear Philadelphian violinist David Kim as the soloist. Kim has been concertmaster with the Philadelphia Orchestra for two decades, and he has seemed to master every genre and era. Kim, looking almost solemn on his entrance during the opening orchestral bars, was unfortunately marred by a ringing cellphone. Fortunately, however, it only stole a few seconds of everyoneís attention. Stutzmann dug in, and Kimís lead lines were rich and soaring...he was obviously in the Bruch zone.

Kim never sawed through dense string passages, and he projected a rich sound that crystallized throughout Bruchís intense musical dialogues. Even innovative progressions brought such immediacy to this performance. There were a few cloudy moments in the second movement between orchestra, maestro, and soloist, but shortly the performance was back on track.

Stutzmann consistently brought forth the more angular and progressive voicings of these composers, and the romance was not all relegated to the strings. Most effective was the detailing of Brahmsí Symphony no. 2. It has so many romantic symphonic themes and hooks that itís easy to ride the surface waves of the gorgeous field of strings. In Stutzmannís hands this was not an issue, for her clarity in the depth of string fields, the counterpoint orchestral streams and, what sounded like rediscovered horn charts, were previously upstaged by the romanticism of Brahmsí strings.

Among the outstanding soloist lines were David Kim (back in his first chair) and the inestimable Jennifer Montone (flawless). The extended horn solos served as the heart of the piece with symphonic heralding. Erica Peel, Peter Smith and Daniel Matsukawa led the mighty winds.

Lewis Whittington



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