Simone Porter, Ludovic Morlot a star combo at Hollywood Bowl

09.05.14
Simone Porter
Los Angeles Times

By Richard S. Ginell

In his second program with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl this week, enterprising maestro Ludovic Morlot zeroed in on two areas in which he is making his mark with the Seattle Symphony: American and French music of the 20th century.

And Morlot had a future star to work with in violinist Simone Porter, the 17-year-old, Seattle-raised Colburn School student who was making her Bowl and Philharmonic debut Thursday night.

Wait: Let’s strike the word “future.” She sounds ready. Now.

Bypassing the usual concerto warhorses that regularly turn up at the Bowl, Porter took on Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, which survived the fashion wars of the 20th century and is increasingly finding a place in the 21st.

The piece gives a violinist everything one would want to make an impression -- ravishing tunes, arching lyricism and dazzling virtuosity with a tart edge. The latter, though, comes only in the form of a brief race-track finale all out of proportion to the lengthier spans of the preceding two movements.

The remarkably mature Porter easily encompassed every aspect of this bipolar concerto. Her ripe tone quality sang directly and naturally throughout the first two movements, with a seamless legato, no forcing, and a sure grip of the overall line.

She has arrived at the point where she could explore the angles and colors of all of those treacherous figurations in the finale at a lightning-like tempo, not just skittering over the surface or blurring the notes as even some great violinists of the past have done here.

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