An altogether thrilling efficiency happened at Orchestra Corridor on Thursday night because the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, in its normal bravura type, performed three demonically tough works (by Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Anders Hillborg). Concurrently, the viewers was launched to Klaus Makela, a slender, boyish, dazzlingly subtle 26-year-old Finnish-born conductor, and Daniel Lozakovich, an outstanding 21-year-old Swedish-born violinist, each of whom had been making their debuts with the CSO.
If you happen to wanted to be reminded of the genius of two groundbreaking early twentieth century composers, or hoped for an introduction to an interesting up to date composer, this live performance unquestionably lived as much as expectations.
As well as, in case you had been able to welcome examples of the stellar younger expertise that may preserve classical music thriving, this live performance unquestionably did the job.
As this system itself did, let’s begin with the brand new: Swedish composer Hillborg’s “Eleven Gates,” a 2006 work receiving its first efficiency by the CSO. As a program word defined, Hillborg grew up on rock music, grew to become intrigued by digital music, and delved into the classical repertoire, and is quoted as saying: “Experiment and custom usually are not separate, however are always intertwined within the strategy of composing.”
Deploying an enormous orchestra, together with using an elaborate vary of percussion devices — every thing from bongos, automotive horns, glass harmonica and wooden blocks to congas, crotales, marimba and extra — Hillborg’s 20-minute work started with an otherworldly scratchy sound, grew in quantity and agitation to counsel an excellent storm, went on to make the most of quirky rhythms and an excellent cacophony involving all sections of the orchestra. It created a sort of underworld aura, and launched right into a percussion smorgasbord. “Eleven Gates” have to be skilled greater than described.
Then it was on to the 2 established musical geniuses, who had been born in pre-Revolution Ukraine and Russia, however alongside the way in which of their lives took completely different paths (one non permanent and one everlasting) when it got here to life in Western Europe, the U.S. and their homeland.
First up, Sergei Prokofiev. His “Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor” debuted in 1935, simply as he was engaged on his rating for “Romeo and Juliet,” one of the crucial sensible, richly theatrical ballet scores in existence. At moments, echoes of memorable themes from that rating may very well be heard on this fiercely demanding concerto, however there was extra. And the boyish, slender Lozakovich unleashed all of it on this piece that’s, unquestionably, a livid exercise for the soloist in addition to for the orchestra’s full string part. The string part shifted from bowing to plucking numerous instances in a piece that strikes seamlessly, however thrillingly from tonal to atonal passages, and even has a wild violin sequence accompanied by castanets.
All through this demonically tough piece, immense calls for are made on all sections of each the orchestra and the soloist as beautiful melodies are juxtaposed towards moments of excessive drama and excessive virtuosity. The impeccable connection between conductor, Lozakovich and the orchestra was palpable.
The live performance’s second half was dedicated to Igor Stravinsky’s fabled ballet, “The Firebird.” It had its triumphant premiere on the Paris Opera in 1910, the place it was carried out by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes starring the illustrious dancers Tamara Karsavina and Michel Fokine.
Whereas not fairly as revolutionary as “The Ceremony of Spring,” which prompted a furor at its Paris debut when it debuted three years later, “Firebird” is a piece of nice magnificence and magic from the sluggish rumble to the suspenseful improvement of its opening, to its moments of complicated syncopated rhythms, to its mix of the sounds of nature — from whirling winds to the flight of birds — to its general fairytale aura and dreamy melodies.
As well as, the work’s full-force instrumentation — from strings, to winds, brass and timpani, together with two harps, celesta, piano, bells, tambourine, cymbals, triangle, xylophone and extra — brings nice originality and dramatic insanity to the musical storytelling. Makela carried out with all of the grace of a dancer, and was in excellent management of all of it. I solely hope he’ll return quickly to steer the CSO regardless of what have to be his busy schedule as chief conductor and creative advisor of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra and music director of the Orchestre de Paris.
Whereas leaving Orchestra Corridor I discovered myself considering of the delicate and wholly unintended irony of sure facets of this live performance which was deliberate lengthy earlier than the nightmare in Ukraine started.
Not solely did I hear echoes of the very completely different selections and fates made by Prokofiev and Stravinsky — the 2 musical geniuses who had their very own points with, and responses to the Soviet Union. However watching Makela and Lozakovich, the 2 younger artists who had been each born in Scandinavian nations, was a reminder of the intense considerations each Finland and Sweden now have about their Russian “neighbor.”
Comply with Hedy Weiss on Twitter: @HedyWeissCritic