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Stefan Jackiw: Talent That's Off the Scale

Stefan Jackiw
The Washington Post

By Joe Banno

Listening to the apparently endless parade of expert, teenage violinists passing through our concert halls, you'd be hard-pressed to find one with a more consistently beautiful sound than 19-year-old Stefan Jackiw. His reading of Saint-Saens's Violin Concerto No. 3, with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at the Music Center at Strathmore on Thursday, was marked by elegance, a supple, singing line and a liquid tone that never hardened, even in the score's bravura passages.

This was gorgeous playing -- from the spot-on precision in the first movement's stratospheric high notes through the poise and nobility imbuing the swaggering finale. If Jackiw's performance was more laid-back and objective than emotionally invested, his playing provided enough ear candy to satisfy. The BSO proved a suitably suave partner, with conductor Yuri Temirkanov coaxing silken playing from the strings and subtly blended chording from the winds.

The orchestra was more extroverted in Franck's Symphony in D Minor. It's a piece that suits Temirkanov's temperament well -- or, rather, the conductor shaped the score successfully to his will. In Temirkanov's hands, this might have been a lost work by Tchaikovsky or Glazunov, so Russian was the surge of the phrasing, the crush of the climaxes, the cut-and-thrust in the brass playing, the soulfulness in the violins and lower winds. But in this least overtly French of French symphonies, his pulse-quickening, Slavic approach worked to exciting effect.