ASO: Edo De Waart with Augustin Hadelich

On Tuesday I attended a gallery talk for the Carlos Museum’s Divine Felines exhibit during which I learned that the Egyptian word for “cat” is pronounced “mew,” as in the sound that cats make. This is relevant for two reasons. First, it’s adorable and awesome and I think that everyone should know about it. Secondly, Augustin Hadelich, the soloist for this weekend’s Atlanta Symphony Orchestra concerts, is actually a cat according to a documentary that I saw. On the other hand, the guest conductor, Edo De Waart, is human, all too human. Given that to err is human, last night’s performance offers further confirmation of De Waart’s humanity.

The program began with Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto no. 1, which is a pretty amazing piece when done well. It was as though Hadelich used his violin to pump feelings from a deep well of emotion over the audience. From the brooding beginning to the incitement to dance in the scherzo and on through the hysterics and screaming despair, Hadelich’s performance gripped both my mind and heart. Unfortunately, he had to do so with poor support from the orchestra. De Waart is one of those conductors who restrains the orchestra during concerti, making them fade deep into the background while the soloist does their thing. When Hadelich was playing, the orchestra sounded muted. When his bow left his instrument, the orchestra suddenly became overwhelmingly loud, almost obnoxiously so given the contrast with how restrained they had been. The piece, like most concerti, is so much better when the music of the orchestra is given the standing to mix with the music of the soloist. As I was walking out, more than one group of people mentioned that they loved Hadelich’s playing but not Shostakovich’s work. I don’t think that they’d have felt that way with a better conductor at the podium.

Hadelich gave us an encore in the way of Paganini’s Caprice no. 21. When he announced it, my first reaction was to feel relieved that it wasn’t the overplayed 24th before I realized that I haven’t really heard that one in quite some time. It’s interesting to me that I still feel so burned out on it. Anyway, the 21st was a good choice: in tone and technique it complements the Shostakovich very well and Hadelich’s performance of it was excellent.

After the intermission, De Waart gave a somewhat better performance for Rachmaninov’s Symphony no. 2. His conducting was solid, if conservative and lacking in nuance. The broodiness of the first movement, the schmaltzy romance of the second, the make out music for people on ketamine in the third movement, and the et cetera of the final movement all came through well but not in any special way. It was enjoyable, though not very memorable.

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