Saturday, February 5, 2022

Orchestra Hall, Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, Woodward Avenue, Detroit, Michigan

Eun Sun Kim is music director of San Francisco Opera, a watchful conductor with a clear beat and economic yet meaningful gestures, as well as thank-you smiles to the players. I missed this concert’s first half – Dub-Sanjo by Texu Kim and Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez played by MILOŠ (replacing Pablo Sainz-Villegas) – but I did catch MILOŠ’s encore: ‘(Somewhere) Over the Rainbow’ from The Wizard of Oz, as arranged by Toru Takemitsu.

However, Rachmaninov’s Third Symphony was the main attraction (desert-island music, ever since the first of André Previn’s LSO recordings of it, late-1960s RCA, came my way). Kim has much feeling for the bittersweetness of this music and invested subtle dynamics as well as plenty of power and passion, the composer’s deepest range of emotions rekindled. It’s easy to glamourise and pull-around the first-movement exposition (I am pleased Kim observed its repeat, which is more than the composer managed in his Philadelphia recording), something Kim avoided while ensuring those emotions (sometimes tortured) came blazing through, timed and turned impressively, both as interpretation and orchestral response, whether as impassioned peaks or melancholy reminiscences, poignancies then being at the heart of the slow movement, during which Kim introduced much persuasive ebb and flow so that the brilliantly scored Scherzo-like middle section arrived organically. (The Symphony as a whole is a masterclass in orchestration.) Following another disruptive/insensitive burst of clapping, the multi-faceted Finale (including a fugue) enjoyed a through-line that satisfied moods and symphonism, the flute-led coda and subsequent intensification/acceleration shot like an arrow by KIm to ultimate defiance.

The very Previn recording mentioned above: