Pastoral, stately, and with plenty of spunk to spare. Such was the musical result last night of the mellifluous pairing and chemistry of violinist Gil Shaham and the one voice that was conductor David Robertson's Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. The set list was a neat Stravinsky-Mozart dialogue, adeptly executed for its mainly young adult and elderly audience.
From the opening sequence of Stravinsky's Danses concertantes to the august closing of Mozart's Symphony No. 36 in C major, the charismatic Robertson leads us on an exploration through the playful joys, trials, and tribulations of springtime. For someone who enjoys the purely classical but prefers the more emotionally rich romantic genre, the lead-off piece was, at times, a bit bland, even in a technically polished performance. At the level in which modern-day orchestras operate, if not for Shaham's dexterity and personality, the night may very well have stayed comfortably within the confines of dignified mediocrity.
The two sandwiched pieces, both violin concerti in D major (Mozart's second, Stravinsky's only), not only featured Shaham, but showcased his classical range. A highlight of the night was the spirited cadenza near the end of the Mozart concerto. This was a time when the regimented became less so and the assertive woodwind section finally had no opportunity to cover up the soloist. What a pleasure to hear the lower notes of the violin being played in the Stravinsky, followed by some of the highest notes of the night in a passionate passage in the “Capriccio.”
Overall, it was an intellectual, charming performance, with more than a few terrific moments with Robertson and brother-in-law Shaham at the helm.
Notes from the Program:
STRAVINSKY - Danses concertantes (Marche: Intro, Pas d'action, Thème varié, Pas de deux, Marche: Conclusion)
MOZART - Violin Concerto No. 2 in D major, K. 211 (Allegro moderato, Andante, Rondeau: Allegro)