August 15, Napier Municipal Theatre. Beethoven Violin Concerto in D Op. 61, Brahms Symphony No.2 Op.73. New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edo de Waart. Augustin Hadelich, violin. By Louis Pierard.
Ritual mass media hyperventilating about musical prodigy carries the risk of a sceptical reception. Increasingly bombarded as we are by the marketers’ charms, overblown promises can lead to disappointment.
The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra’s double offering on Wednesday night was sufficient in itself to ensure an enthusiastic attendance and pique interest in German-Italian Hadelich – a hitherto unfamiliar name to most New Zealand audiences – who was touted as “one of the great violinists of his generation”.
Happily, it’s clearly true. From the violin’s entry three minutes into the Beethoven we witnessed a player of extraordinary musical intelligence who combines an effortless technical surety with an endearing humility. His mastery of the concerto’s high-tessitura passages and its dazzling showers of scales and arpeggios gave us a rare insight into a visionary work that proves one of the most challenging of the violin repertoire because its formidable demands require more than mere technique. When the music is so exquisitely shaped and shorn of sentimentality or histrionics the mechanics become invisible and concerto’s subtlety is made apparent. Not a note was wasted, not a phrase unconsidered, and with such skilled and sympathetic integration with the NZSO players under the experienced guidance of de Waart (who has previously partnered with Hadelich in this work in the United States) it was a certainly a performance worthy of a shower of adulation.
Hadelich’s 1723 ex- “Keisewetter“ Stradivarius has a sublime eloquence, but not a particularly prominent voice. Even so, the balance was right, the playing was unforced , and nothing was missed, even allowing for the theatre’s sometimes cavernous acoustic.
Hadelich’s dazzling use of the Kreisler cadenzas (Beethoven wrote none) provided additional crowd-pleasing fireworks. Perhaps in time the youngster will pen his own. And for more, pyrotechnics, as if further evidence of his skill were necessary, Hadelich played Paganini’s Caprice No. 24. On the heels of the Beethoven it seemed almost gratuitous.
The NZSO lived up to its formidable reputation with the magnificent second course in the Brahms, the favourite of the composer’s four symphonies, and with audiences, too. Sunny and solemn by turns, it reveals a confident Brahms free of the shadow of Beethoven’s formidable symphonic legacy.
The orchestral forces were nicely balanced. De Waart’s was an assured hand that avoided any temptation to over-egg the dramatic moments, skilfully allowing the contrasts and a producing a satisfying palette of musical colours from the huge and spirited first movement, the complex, dark slow movement, to the exuberant finale.