Once again the Detroit Symphony Orchestra comes through with the fabulous live performances. Today’s live webcast was such a treat. It really makes you appreciate the great work Leonard Slatkin and the DSO do. They opened the concert with Beethoven’s Overture to The Consecration of the House. Clearly, the DSO’s discipline comes to the fore in the clear, clean lines of their music making. This was a very nice musical appetizer. Next came Hilary Hahn’s mesmerizing performance of Carl Nielsen’s Violin Concerto (to borrow Jeppe Morgenthaler’s phrase). While those of you who have experienced some of Nielsen’s later pieces may find some of his music challenging, this Concerto is a beautifully haunting and lyrical piece with a clear melodic undertone throughout. We know whenever Ms. Hahn plays we’re in for excellent technical playing; that’s a given (and she does not disappoint on that score here). It is, however, her emotional connection with the music that grabs us; it was almost palpable during this concert. Nicely enough, her playing was mirrored physically: you could see her concentrated, furrowed brow in the first movement, the almost playful, smiling performance within the second and the subtle and understated message of the third. It was stunning. Yet another piece that’s not heard a lot on which the DSO sheds some musical light.
Now, you know those times when you want to hear big symphonic sound. You have this lovely symphony orchestra and while it’s nice to provide backing of a terrific Concerto, it sometimes seems almost like a larger scale chamber orchestra. It’s great music, but you’re yearning for that large sound stage. It’s a little like (and a lot more palatable than) Madeleine Albright’s comment to General Colin Powell: “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it? ” If you have this great orchestra, such as the Detroit Symphony, led well by Leonard Slatkin, and a great venue such as Orchestra Hall, go ahead and bring the big sound. They do. Listening to the opening movement of Schubert’s “The Great” Symphony, Nbr. 9, is simply a joy. You let the sound wash over you. Yes there are more intimate moments in the piece, and they’re fabulous, but just allowing the big movements to course through you is so wonderful and revitalizing.
I commend the DSO for making itself “the most accessible orchestra in the world”, partly through these live broadcasts as well as highlighting some less often played music, such Mason Bates’ Violin Concerto played by lovely Anne Akiko Meyers earlier in the season as well as older but less famous works like Nielsen’s this week. Not only are they a world-class orchestra but they’re an educating orchestra as well. To see Hillary Hahn in working mode: A great display of the DSO’s controlled lyrical playing under Leonard Slatkin: