Saturday, April 1, 2023

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

Maybe the DSO missed a trick by not including some Rachmaninov on the date of his 150th-anniversary, although Leonard Slatkin’s scrutiny of the Symphonies with this orchestra in its newly arrived Naxos box will do very nicely,, one of twelve Rachmaninov 150-related posts on this site yesterday.

What we did get from Detroit was colourful, rhythmic and cinematic-vivid, beginning with probably the best-known excerpt from Khachaturian’s score for the Spartacus ballet, the ‘Adagio’, aka the theme music for BBC TV’s The Onedin Line. Jader Bignamini (Slatkin’s successor as DSO music director) – who perhaps leaves something to be desired when talking to the audience beforehand; his latest intro, however well-intentioned, would have been better-placed at a children’s concert – led a potent account of this rapturous snippet, played lushly and developing to be climactically intense. To close the concert, Stravinsky’s second Suite (1919; there’s a third, 1945) from The Firebird, a rendition of atmosphere and spiky characterisation, crisp agility, affectionate song (fine solos), a rather subdued ‘Infernal Dance’ (not without fluffs), and, cued by a lovely horn signal, a less-than-grand apotheosis.

There were also two works by Arturo Márquez (born 1950). Danzón No.2, slinky and exuberant, percussive and brassy (uninhibited trumpet solos), siesta-like moments alternating with fiesta boogieing; and Fandango (2020), composed for Anne Akiko Meyers, a very likeable violin concerto, music of verve and lyricism and with painterly qualities – down Mexico way – avoiding (just) getting stuck in a rut during any one section, quite a feat for a piece lasting nearly thirty-five minutes. There was no doubting Meyers’s flawless virtuosity and shapely tenderness, or her unstinting devotion to the score, and that the DSO and its conductor supported her gamely.