Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Kamio excells in Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto with Vancouver Symphony

Mayuko Kamio " Photo credit: Shion Isaka

Mayuko Kamio may be diminutive in stature, but she knows how to create a big, beautiful sound. The young Japanese virtuoso (age 30) delivered an immaculate performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto on Saturday afternoon (October 1) to open the Vancouver Symphony’s 38th season. Her playing riveted a large audience at Skyview Concert Hall in an all-Russian program that featured Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 (“Path├ętique”) and the Overture to Mikhail Glinka’s “Ruslan and Ludmila.”

Kamio performed the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with meticulous care, generating a gorgeous and rich tone throughout the piece. She effortlessly created fortissimos and excelled in bringing the volume down to super soft pianissimos. Her quiet playing during the big cadenza in the first movement was almost drowned out by the pounding rain on the roof. But some of the tempos in the third movement were a tad slow and caused the music-making to drag a little. Still, the accelerando into the final movement preceded an amazing set of fireworks from Kamio. The orchestra, guided expertly by Salvador Brotons, accompanied her with terrific sensitivity, and the audience responded with thunderous applause.

Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony is a veritable roller coaster of a piece and it received an emotionally gripping performance from the orchestra. There was a little bit of uncertainty now and then in the first movement with a couple of shaky entrances and a choppy blend in the brass. But the musicians settled down and reeled off a wonderful ensemble sound the rest of the way. Superb solos dotted the music, including meltingly beautiful phrases of principal clarinetist Igor Shahkman, golden sounds from principal trumpeter Bruce Dunn, snarling brass, deep and dark tones from principal bassoonist Margaret McShea and colleague Nicole Buetti, and sweeping lovely passages from the strings.

The violins at the outset of the third movement were light and bright but not together and one of the trombones tried to come in too early. But the crescendos and decrescendos were thrilling as well as the exciting uptick, which added a fearlessness to the march that closed out the movement. The cry of despair in the fourth movement came from the entire ensemble and the poignancy of the music especially came across in the final throbbing pattern heartbeats from the bass violins.

Brotons conducted the entire piece from memory, and his energetic presence on the podium added to the compelling dynamics. Urging the musicians from a crouched position, he wrung out as much emotion as possible, and the piece concluded with a dignified solemn silence.

The orchestra performed the Overture to Glinka’s “Ruslan and Lumila” better than ever. The violins played together at full speed with outstanding precision, including intonation. The cellos sang out will a richer and fuller expression than I’ve heard before. Just a couple of slight hesitations in entrances took off a bit of the polish, but overall, the musicians gave the gem plenty of sparkle to make it glow.

The concert marked the beginning of the 26th season for Brotons, and the orchestra, especially the strings, is upping its game, which is a good sign.

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