Violinist highlights adventure

03.01.09
Chee-Yun
Denver Post

One of Jeffrey Kahane's many distinctive talents is his ability to transform a musical encounter into an adventure.

Favoring emotions and impressions over more conventional programmatic devices, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra's artistically perceptive music director delivered a collection of romantic Russian works at Boettcher Concert Hall on Friday.

The highlight of the CSO's Masterworks program was violinist Chee-Yun's polished and poignant reading of Sergei Prokofiev's well-known Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor. The young virtuoso closed the evening with innate poise, immaculate technique and a consistently refined tone.

Elegant in demeanor, yet powerful and focused in performance, Chee-Yun was especially effective in her smooth, insightful approach to the concerto's melodic middle movement. Soaring over the orchestra's gentle pizzicato accompaniment, her instrumental voice laced the lyrical lines and delicate phrasings with grace and meaning.

The program opened with Igor Stravinsky's "Fireworks," Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Vocalise" and Pyotr Tchaikovsky's "Serenade for Strings." The latter two works, in particular, were rendered with extreme care, precision and feeling by the CSO string section - a heartfelt, eloquent tribute to Kenneth Harper, the orchestra's assistant principal bassist since 1994, who died Feb. 21. His instrument, prominently displayed on stage, evoked his presence throughout the concert.

Kahane's adroit direction of the CSO shaped each sensitive nuance of the "Vocalise" with extraordinary expressiveness. His nimble style further lent itself to the thickly textured "Serenade," inducing the composer's intended exclamations of beauty, joy and love.

After intermission, preceding Chee-Yun, came another popular favorite - Prokofiev's suite from "The Love for Three Oranges." The suite was delivered with all the satiric wit, fun and fanfare inherent in its six entertaining movements.