Violinist elevates Mendelssohn concerto

Christopher Seaman
Omaha World-Herald

By John Pitcher

David Kim is like the St. Paul of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto.

The noted violin virtuoso is in town this weekend, performing the Mendelssohn concerto with the Omaha Symphony under guest conductor Christopher Seaman….

He performed Mendelssohn’s familiar work with heart-felt enthusiasm, as if it were his favorite piece.

And appropriately enough for a born-again Mendelssohnian, Kim delivered an interpretation that was a revelation.

As you would expect from any virtuoso, he played the concerto with a golden tone and effortless technique. But he also brought a welcome degree of dry-eyed objectivity to the piece.

Mendelssohn’s old warhorse is often subjected to a bit too much heart-on-the-sleeve Romanticism. Kim avoided the temptation of being a mere razzle-dazzle showman. He elevated the music, giving us a reading that was thoughtful, intensely musical but also serious. He saved the fireworks until the end, playing the quicksilver finale with fleet-fingered gusto.

Seaman was likewise wonderful in this music. He paid attention to every detail of tempo, phrasing and dynamics. As a result, the orchestra’s performance beautifully supported and dovetailed Kim’s.

Seaman, the long-time music director of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, excels in the music of Elgar and Dvorak, the other composers on this weekend’s program.

Elgar’s “In the South,” Op. 50, which opened the program, is a lush, colorful and episodic piece, the English equivalent of one of Richard Strauss’ virtuoso tone poems. Seaman and the orchestra played it with a marvelous mix of heroism and lyricism, an interpretation that was majestic yet animated. Principal violist Thomas Kluge played the extended viola solo from the heart, with a string sound that seemed to melt.

Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88, which closed the concert, is a work of real cathedral grandeur. Its monumental first movement is followed by an equally monumental and tragic adagio. The third movement is one of the symphony world’s most elegant waltzes, and the finale is a theme and variations that seemingly leaves no element of classical style unexplored.

The Omaha Symphony under Seaman did this work justice, delivering a performance notable for its grasp of the musical architecture and for its ravishing sound.