The concert opened with Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune(Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun). It was a beautiful rendition of this symphonic poem, with the most delicate moments being treated tenderly by maestro and orchestra alike. The opening flute solo seemed to happen in a period of suspended reality, that was gently awoken by the gentle support of the strings. The theme was never lost, and the piece had a sense of direction that told a story and kept the audience engaged. Moments of larger volume never were harsh. In fact, they seemed to make the room hum with a rich, warm sound.
Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor provides a lot of musical information, starting with a form that lends itself more to the style of a “fantasie,” but ultimately this concerto should not be described as anything less than breathtaking.
Soloist Nicola Benedetti brought her finest violin playing, from her superior handling of the soaring runs and the numerous challenging double stops to the gorgeous tone created in every note. Her voice was brought to the forefront of the second movement, which shows a truly romantic style of writing that demands to be played with deep emotion from the soloist. The final movement was yet another marathon of double stops and runs, which truly give this piece the distinction of being a concerto.
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor was humble yet honest in its interpretation, allowing for times of true delicacy, while never getting too harsh and loud in the big moments. The opening movement followed all standards in performing this, and it was truly beautiful. The rest of the symphony came with control and clarity that continued on through the final two movements. The Scherzo movement showed that there was never a tempo that was too fast for the players of this ensemble. And with the Allegro, Maestro Peter Oundjian was able to keep the energy up without sacrificing any tone within the orchestra.
And while Wednesday’s performance provided an entertaining Scottish dance for the encore, Oundjian kept the encore British with the sweet Nimrod from Elgar’s Enigma Variations. This left concertgoers with a smile, as the maestro led the ensemble in a well-balanced performance. It seemed to be a wonderful way for the orchestra to say, “Thank you for having us back to the U.S. after 35 years.”
The orchestra also performed Tuesday in the Kravis Center’s Dreyfoos Hall.