ASO: Karina Canellakis with Itamar Zorman

I don’t think it would be hyperbolic to say that the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s performance conducted by Karina Canellakis was the best performance of the Leonore Overture No. 3 that I’ve ever heard live in concert. It was vibrant, vivacious, exciting, dramatic, and a lot more fun to listen to than most of the performances that I’ve heard. It felt very fresh and the orchestra was very together, creating a sharp and clear sound that really brought the piece to life.

I didn’t really expect to enjoy the Beethoven as much as I did and I really didn’t expect to be so disappointed in the performance of the Berg Violin Concerto that followed it. I spent most of the performance trying to figure out why Itmar Zorman’s violin sounded so bad. Particularly the A string: it sounded so wooden to me that I found myself staring in anticipation of the next time his bow would play over it in hopes that I’d get some clue as to what was going wrong. At first I seriously thought that there might be some wax or something on the string, but it was much worse sounding when playing with the tip of his bow than the rest of it which, along with the fact that he had a few unpleasant squawks from mishandling his bow in the beginning, left me fairly sure that it was in his playing moreso than in the maintenance of his instrument. His sound was particularly bad as he played closer to the bridge for the higher notes and I’m not sure if whatever the issue was just stood out more because of the harmonics in that position or if there was some quality or maintenance issue with his instrument that made the sound particularly bad there. Interestingly, his G string tended to sound fine to me and I rarely found specific issue with notes played on his E string. The A was the worst, as I mentioned, but the D wasn’t so hot, either. I love this piece and really hate that all I could do was focus on his sound rather than what he was playing: it was so distracting for me that I can’t even tell you how well Canellakis and the orchestra played with him. Sadly, it’s been 10 years since it was last programmed here and it’ll probably be another decade before I get to hear it live again. It doesn’t help my feelings any knowing that Leila Josefowicz was originally scheduled to perform it when I ordered by series tickets last Spring; perhaps she’ll be available a decade from now when they program it again.

After spending intermission getting over my strange obsession with Zorman’s sound, Canellakis treated us to a solid performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony no. 5. Nothing really stood out to me beyond the fact that it was a good performance.

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