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Violinist Fried's sense of rhythm impresses

02.10.08
Miriam Fried
The Colorado Springs Gazette

Audiences in Colorado Springs have had their share of great violinists in the past few years, with the likes of Itzhak Perlman, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Rachel Barton and Joshua Bell holding forth at the Pikes Peak Center.

Violinist Miriam Fried proved to be their equal Saturday night when she joined the Colorado Springs Philharmonic for a passionate and thrilling performance of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto - so good that she got a standing ovation after the first movement.

It wasn't just Fried's accuracy in this virtuoso concerto, which at the time of its composition was regarded as almost unplayable, or her tone, which ranged from flutelike purity to a passionate earthiness reminiscent of a great gypsy violinist. (It doesn't hurt that she plays an amazing Stradivarius.)

But most impressive is Fried's expressive sense of rhythm. She's also a noted chamber music player, and as a result, nearly every musical gesture was intensified by a modification of the tempo.

The synchronization between soloist and the orchestra could have been better, especially in the madcap finale. But it's hard to fault conductor Lawrence Leighton Smith: When a soloist plays with the tempo as much as Fried, there's bound to be a few moments of imperfect ensemble.

For this reason, the performance's high point was the melancholy second movement, in which Fried's dynamics explored the limits of what's audible in a hall the size of the Pikes Peak Center. Fried's nuances were easier to follow at the slower tempo.

The program opened with Mendelssohn's overture, "Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage." It's a lovely and picturesque piece in two sections - a soulful opening followed by an allegro in which you can almost smell the sea air - and the performance was light and joyful.

But the orchestra's high point was the closing Brahms' Symphony No. 3 - shorter, but just as weighty as its three peers. The performance surged with emotion and energy, from the stormy opening to the calm, quiet ending. Smith's rhythmic liberties were almost as extravagant as Fried's. Without a soloist to follow, the orchestra handled these and Brahms' tricky rhythms with seeming ease.

The concert was dedicated to outgoing executive director Susan Greene, who played a decisive role in keeping professional symphonic music alive in Colorado Springs when the Colorado Springs Symphony Orchestra went bankrupt in 2003.