Saturday, April 29, 2023

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

The concert opened with Brian Raphael Nabors’s fifteen-minute Upon Daybreak, a DSO co-commission given its premiere two nights ago. Nabors (born 1991 in Birmingham, Alabama) has written an engaging score that buzzes with activity, colour (including from drum kit, piano and harp) and filmic sweep (John Williams not far away) from the off, which later yields to strings-based romantic longing – lost love, perhaps – before returning to rapidity and sun-on-water glints, rounded by a brassy peroration to complete an impressive performance and piece.

Either side of the interval, Augustin Hadelich played Violin Concertos, first by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-99), violinist and champion fencer. His A-major Concerto, Opus 5/2, with string orchestra, opens in the manner of a Rossini Sonata for that instrumentation, music that is elegant yet frisky, with lively writing for the soloist, played nimbly and lightly by Hadelich, who then stylishly addressed the expressive curves of the slow movement and the contrasts of the dance-like Finale. Throughout, JoAnn Falletta and the Detroit strings were model accompanists. As they were in Stravinsky’s compact, four-movement, neoclassical Concerto for which rhythmic accuracy and spot-on detailing are a must, so too closeness of contact between participants, so that everything meshes; there’s nowhere to hide. All those boxes were ticked, the outer movements crisply delineated and poised, tempos well-judged for purposes of clarity, with the central ‘Aria’ pair deeply felt, the second one particularly poignant. (There is a clique of between-movement clappers in the Detroit audience that are regularly very irritating in their mood-breaking insensitivity.) Hadelich, first among equals in a work such as the Stravinsky, was in top form, as he was in his encore, which I cannot name, but it sounded like something by Fritz Kreisler.

Finally Kodály’s Dances of Galánta, music of nostalgia and fiery energy, with a starring role for clarinet, here Ralph Skiano shaping and shading with aplomb, music that attracted such as Fricsay and Kletzki of yesteryear, and Maazel and (see below) Celibidache more recently. Falletta led an idiomatic account, the various moods free yet gelling, ending in party mood. Falletta has recorded Galánta and other Kodály pieces for Naxos, one of her many titles for that company, recently added to with Buffalo Philharmonic releases of Concertos by Danny Elfman (for violin) and Adolphus Hailstork (for piano), and Scriabin (his Symphony No.2 & Poem of Ecstasy).