MSO gives depth to Tchaikovsky, violinist, 19

03.09.12
Caroline Goulding
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

By Elaine Schmidt

If you've ever wondered how pieces make their way into the standard repertoire, give a listen to Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4.

The familiar symphony, a staple of the standard orchestral repertoire, is a brilliant mix of poignant melodies and symphonic power. It filled the second half of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra's Friday morning program in Uihlein Hall.

German-born guest conductor Jun Märkl led the orchestra through a performance of the symphony that captured both the musical depth of Tchaikovsky's flowing melodic lines and the sheer power of the piece's biggest moments.

Märkl brought forward-leaning tempos and bold dynamic contrasts to the piece.

The players of the MSO responded with a vigorous, precise performance that blended a strong, well-balanced brass section playing with rich string sounds and some particularly lovely exposed passages from the oboe, bassoon and piccolo.

The piece opened with clean, bold, brass passages and wrapped up with a thrilling full-orchestra sound.

In between, the first movement's gently lilting lines, the second movement's long, artfully rendered crescendos, as well as the third movement's colorful pizzicato passages and fast, fluid wind passages, combined to create a performance that was fascinating from top to bottom, despite just a couple of pitch and tempo wobbles within the winds.

Violinist Caroline Goulding opened the concert with the Sibelius Concerto in D, the composer's only concerto.

Listening to the poised Goulding play, it's hard to remember that she's just 19, the age of an average college sophomore. She plays with the musical depth and maturity of someone with many more years of life experience, to say nothing of musical experience.

She used dynamics that ranged from delicate shimmers to big throaty sounds, as well as some ferocious technical playing and beautifully crafted phrasings to make the Sibelius sing, giving the piece a commanding, magnetic performance. That's right, she's 19.

Märkl and the players of the MSO gave an equally gripping account of the piece, using their own broad dynamic palette without getting in Goulding's way or overpowering her sound. They supported her vision of the piece convincingly; sounding at times like an extension of the lines she had just played.