Evaluate | NSO provides a showstopping Shostakovich and a buckling Bruckner


I did a while within the trenches as a meals critic, so let’s give this a shot: Like a stable meal, a three-piece classical program is all about portion management, complementary flavors and the rhythm of supply. You get your starter, your entree, one thing candy for dessert, possibly the after-dinner mint of an encore. Ideally, every chew blurs in your reminiscence right into a sequence of nice sensory echoes, and a well-fed glow floats you residence.

The 2-piecer, in the meantime, strikes a starker profile on the plate. The steakhouse method — meat and a veg. It’s borderline keto. You’re gonna eat the entire thing and it’s gonna ship you to mattress. As such, it’s just a little (or lots) tougher to drag off. Each elements have to be exquisitely properly ready.

None of that is to say that Thursday night time’s providing from the Nationwide Symphony Orchestra — pairing Dmitri Shostakovich’s first violin concerto with Anton Bruckner’s sixth symphony — was too heavy or too wealthy. It was truly exactingly extreme on each fronts (and a very good night time for maestro Gianandrea Noseda). Taken collectively, it was only a lot to digest — i.e. I can’t do that each week.

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In remarks earlier than the efficiency, Noseda urged a connective thread between the composers (who missed one another on Earth by one decade) that buzzed with internetty forex: They had been introverts! Which is to counsel that Shostakovich and Bruckner discarded flamboyance (the previous below a contact extra duress to take action below Soviet cultural restrictions) in favor of music that pulls you towards its psychological heart.

However one other commonality between these two wildly completely different works is that they had been each late to the stage. Although composed between 1947 and 1948, Shostakovich’s concerto wasn’t premiered till 1955 (shortly after Stalin’s demise), and Bruckner, who wrote his sixth in 1881, died 5 years earlier than it was first carried out in its entirety in 1901.

Maybe this pent-up provenance explains the concerto’s basic character, which swings between formal and feral. And using the road between them was Greek violinist and Noseda homie (if their hug was any indication) Leonidas Kavakos, whose 1734 “Willemotte” Stradivarius lower like a scorching knife for 36 minutes.

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The concerto is in 4 elements — 5 when you depend the cadenza that bridges its closing two actions. In every, Shostakovich engages in a harmonic tug-of-war between decision and resistance, and all through, Noseda elevated its textures and results as if he had been holding the entire thing as much as the sunshine.

However Kavakos was the star, providing a sensational, typically searing account that felt anchored by a mobile understanding of the concerto’s treacherous terrain. He forged a looking out line like a flashlight by the early calm of the primary motion, “Nocturne.” He matched the manic power of the ripping scherzo, its racing flutes and bassoons and its mechanistic climb, which feels charged with the identical manic power of “Woman Macbeth of Mtsensk” (the 1934 opera that helped get the composer condemned). And he introduced surprising tenderness to the third motion, “Passacaglia,” elegantly rising from a churning storm of brass (the entire part in superb type all through).


The violinist pulled his cadenza horsehair skinny, stretching his line right into a barely there filament of sound earlier than serrating his edges and ramping as much as a sawing, smoking climax. Noseda transferred this power immediately into the orchestra, which pounced on the finale and charged to the end with splendid precision and locomotive thrust. The viewers responded with three unbroken ovations — the type that really feel earned.

It was after intermission that I noticed we’d have simply had dessert for breakfast. Bruckner’s Symphony No. 6 in A is not any fast snack. It’s a 54-minute, four-movement assertion piece that additionally represents a sore thumb of types in his symphonic catalogue — or maybe an eleventh finger.

Suffice it to say, it’s a bizarre one. On the time of its completion, Bruckner’s inventive tuchus had already been handed to him by critics and fellow composers alike, confounded by the unusual topography of his music. His structural idiosyncrasies gave rise to a cussed adage — that Bruckner “wrote the identical symphony 9 occasions.” Some have grown to adore it dearly, however greater than a century later, I discover myself grateful that he wrote the Sixth solely as soon as.

At occasions, I used to be struck by what felt like an uncanny presaging of modernist tropes that wouldn’t floor as such for one more half-century: massive, modular, thematic blocks abutting one another, their surfaces embellished with tessellated figures that modulate up and down in a stiff-feeling weave. Right here and there, the second motion (“Adagio”) feels preternaturally Glassy.

At different occasions, I discovered myself wincing at Bruckner’s bombast and machismo, the heavy unison by the primary motion, “Majestoso,” that appears to steer you by the collar, or the back-and-forth between brassy blasts and quizzical pizzicato strings within the scherzo.

Noseda performed round with the thickness and depth of strings within the “Finale,” one in all many valiant makes an attempt to reanimate the beast. However he wasn’t all the time in a position to maintain ample momentum — a sluggishness troubled the cellos and basses, key tensions between registers too typically fell slack.

Regardless of this symphony’s abundance of creative rhythmic units, trick endings and bounce scares, it felt out of juice by its end, which was greeted with conspicuously concise applause — the equal of inserting one’s serviette on the plate and asserting, “I couldn’t eat one other chew.” Full, if not completely happy.

Leonidas Kavakos with the Nationwide Symphony Orchestra Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. on the Kennedy Heart. kennedy-center.org.

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