Violinist Goulding, Adrian Symphony Orchestra give outstanding performances

Caroline Goulding
Daily Telegram

By Arlene Bachanov

Spend enough time around the performing arts, and every now and then you might come across a young person who has the talent and the poise — and even that intangible “something more” — to make you think you’ve just seen someone about whom you’re going to be hearing a lot more in the future.

Saturday night’s Adrian Symphony Orchestra concert was one of those times.

From her first few notes in the Beethoven Violin Concerto in D Major, it was obvious that violinist Caroline Goulding, the concert’s 20-year-old guest artist, is a rising star.

Goulding plays with a nice blend of technical skill and artistry, with control and clarity, and even at this early stage of her career, she has a lot to say musically. And as paradoxical as this may sound, at the same time as there’s a real maturity and thought to her playing, she also plays with a youthful enthusiasm that’s quite refreshing.

As far as her playing of this concerto is concerned, she handled the many virtuosic elements of it with aplomb, and her work in the cadenzas was robust and fearless. By any measure, Goulding’s performance was a superb rendition of one of the greatest works in the violin concerto repertoire, and it was greeted with an enthusiastic standing ovation from the audience that was entirely deserved.

As for the ASO’s work in the piece, the musicians did a really fine job, a rather glaring horn error aside, with a concerto that certainly places its share of demands on an orchestra. And music director John Thomas Dodson, as he always does, displayed a first-rate attentiveness to what his soloist was doing and what his orchestra needed to do as a result.

The concerto was the middle work in an all-Beethoven evening that also included the Overture to “The Creatures of Prometheus,” a work that’s only about five minutes long but packs a whole world of music into those five minutes, and his Symphony No. 4.

More about that piece in a moment. Before playing it, immediately after intermission, Dodson took the opportunity to give the audience an interesting look at how Beethoven’s hearing loss became more profound over the years, by playing the same chord as Beethoven would have heard it over time. Having an educational component to a concert is something quite rare for an orchestra, but the ASO isn’t shy about doing it when the occasion is right, and it’s great to see.

The orchestra also took the post-intermission occasion to announce a major new endeavor for next season, a partnership with the Adrian Dominican Sisters and the New Haven and Fairfax symphonies to present a new commissioned work by composer Christopher Theofanidis. Theofanidis’ piece will be a contemporary re-working of a piece by the medieval composer and mystic Hildegard von Bingen that will be performed by all three orchestras.

Now, about the Fourth Symphony.

One of the fun things about the three concerts in the ASO’s residency at the Croswell Opera House this season has been the inclusion of the three even-numbered Beethoven symphonies except for the Sixth, giving audiences the opportunity to hear works that have unfortunately tended to be overshadowed by the odd-numbered symphonies around them.

The Fourth, falling as it does between the groundbreaking Third Symphony and the huge Fifth Symphony, is in that category, which is too bad, because it’s a terrific piece. After a brooding introduction, it’s off to the races, in a work full of energy and wit, and the orchestra really has to be in the moment.

That’s even more the case given that the Adrian Symphony has been working, in all three of these Croswell concerts, with relatively new versions of Symphonies 2, 4, and 8, thanks to recent scholarship correcting errors that crept in to Beethoven’s works over almost two centuries.

It’s a great chance for an audience member who knows these works to hear them in a way that sounds fresh and new, but at the same time it’s a real challenge for a musician who’s used to playing them one way and now has to do something different.

And having said that, the ASO’s rendition of the Fourth Symphony was outstanding, with some musicianship that was really spectacular. The woodwind sections more than deserved the special bow Dodson gave them. It’s actually quite hard to get this piece right, because of all the intricacies involved, but the Adrian Symphony did a fine job of it.

There’s one more concert in the orchestra’s season, the ASO’s now-traditional annual swing-music performance June 7, but as the last classical event of the year, Saturday evening’s concert was a standout.