Augustin Hadelich delivers a gilded evening with SSO

Miguel Harth-Bedoya
The Seattle Times

A review of Seattle Symphony’s Thursday night concert, with guest violinist Augustin Hadelich, a Seattle favorite, and guest conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya in a program of Mendelssohn, Mussorgsky and Esteban Benzecry. 

By Melinda Bargreen

The ability to communicate the joy of making music is a gift not shared by all performing virtuosi. But it is stock in trade for the violinist Augustin Hadelich, whose immaculate and rapturous playing has made him a Seattle favorite – first at the Seattle Chamber Music Society, and now in a repeat visit to the Seattle Symphony.

Hadelich’s performance of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto Thursday evening demonstrated a remarkable partnership with the guest conductor, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, whose attentive baton and sense of scale made the performance seem as intimate as chamber music. Eloquent and unforced, Hadelich’s violin lines were shaped by a technique as fine as anything you’ll hear on today’s concert stages.

The audience ovation was so enthusiastic that Hadelich returned to the stage for a high-octane encore: the Paganini Caprice No. 5, a dizzying tour-de-force of speedy fingerwork and fluent bowing, tossed off with evident enjoyment.

Harth-Bedoya, whose conducting assignments extend from orchestras of Spain and Japan to Los Angeles and Auckland, also is booked to record the Mendelssohn Concerto (along with Bartok) with Hadelich. An exuberant and emphatic figure on the podium, Harth-Bedoya got extremely responsive performances from the orchestra in an unusually colorful program. Bracketing the violin concerto were two challenging pieces: Esteban Benzecry’s 2002 “Colores de la cruz del sur” (“Colors of the Southern Cross”) and Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.”

Harth-Bedoya took the microphone for a brief and succinct discussion of the five movements in the Benzecry “Colores,” which was colorful indeed (and a massive workout for the percussion section). No introduction was required, of course, for “Pictures,” an orchestral staple transcribed by Ravel from Mussorgsky’s original piano score (inspired by an exhibition of drawings by Mussorgsky’s friend Victor Hartmann).

Here the results were a bit more mixed. There was some gorgeous playing (particularly by saxophone soloist Fred Winkler); there was the mighty rumble of Mike Gamburg’s contrabassoon and Seth Krimsky’s eloquent bassoon, as well as the fluent piccolo of Zartouhi Dombourian-Eby. There also were several solos that went awry, and ragged entrances here and there in a work with many stops, starts, and changes. The overall effect was tremendous, but – as the saying goes — the devil is in the details.