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MSO: Shlomo Mintz, Violin

Mozart: Symphony No. 35 in D Major, K. 385
Prokofiev: Suite No. 1 from Cinderella, Op. 10
Brahms: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major, Op. 77

Madison Symphony Orchestra
Shlomo Mintz, violin
John DeMain, conductor


The Madison Symphony Orchestra's second pair of subscription concerts of the season can only be termed impressive, not just for the programming -- Mozart, Prokofiev and Brahms -- but for the playing, under the steady baton and expressive left hand of John DeMain, by both orchestra players and violin soloist Shlomo Mintz, rewarded with two standing ovations and shouts of "Bravo!" from all over the very full hall.

Mozart's Symphony No. 35 in D Major, K. 385 "Haffner" opened the program with clear rhythms, sharp ensemble, moderate tempi and limpidly bright sound. It's a work of great harmonic subtlety and elegant phrasing. Particularly in the second performance, the extremely quick last movement, presto, exuded ebullient panache, while the lovely second movement, andante, was marked by lyrical sighs and surges such as only the operatic Mozart can afford.

The sound picture of Prokoviev's Suite No. 1 from Cinderella, Op. 107, though scored for much larger forces, had much in common with the Mozart, especially clarity. The work is near the orchestra's present technical limits, I think, but both readings were marked by some extraordinary playing in all divisions of the ensemble. As befits ballet music, it was easy to recall the accompanying dance movements to the mind's eye, a mark of high stylistic achievment for DeMain and his players.

Mintz conceives Brahms' Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major, Op. 77 in broad lyrical terms, somewhat at variance with the fiercer style in favor with most young violinists these days. Accordingly, tempos in the outer movements were broader, technically demanding passages were less aggressively hard-edged, and the warm long lines of the score came to the fore. For pure lyricism, few things beat this work's slow movement, and here soloist and orchestra, winds especially, achieved a near-perfect union.

The Brahms violin concerto, I think, represents the crown jewel in the violinist's romantic diadem, and Mintz brought gleaming lustre to it, with both big sound and uncommon delicacy. Both performances were deeply satisfying and both brought the audience instantly to its feet. With wonderful generosity, Mintz responded to the clamor with encores, the Prelude to Bach's E-major solo violin partita on Saturday and a stupefyingly fleet Caprice by Paganini on Sunday.

DeMain and the MSO are now well on the way to realizing the planned brilliance of the 75th-anniversary season, and audiences clearly appreciate their efforts.

Isthmus, October, 2000
Copyright 2000 Jess Anderson

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