Violinist Danchenko delivers a subtle and sublime Shostakovich


The program booklet for violinist Victor Danchenko's appearance with the Peabody Symphony at Friedberg Hall on Saturday evening contained an interesting error. It listed the opus number for Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1 as 77 instead of 99. The former happens to be the opus number of the Brahms Violin Concerto, which is usually considered among the three or four finest for Danchenko's instrument.

This listener happens to think that Shostakovich's opus 99 is in the same class as Brahms' more famous opus 77: It is an imaginative re-casting of the traditional three-movement form in four movements, with a huge cadenza between the third and fourth movements that all but constitutes a movement by itself.

And it is a work that explores a wide spectrum of moods: the nocturnal moonlight of the first movement; the savage burlesque of the second and fourth; and the tragedy-laden atmosphere of the third.

It was clear from his performance that Danchenko also has a high regard for the piece. He found much of the mystery and fantasy that Russian interpreters from David Oistrakh -- the work's dedicatee, first interpreter and Danchenko's teacher -- onward have always discovered in this piece.

He had the right combination of sweetness and savage bite; he played the work's first and third movements with hushed intensity; and brought off the second and fourth with flying bravura. He was particularly impressive in the difficult cadenza, gradually drawing the listener out of the dark of the third movement and leading him into the barbaric yawp of the finale.

Conductor Hajime Teri Murai led the talented student orchestra in an accompaniment that was occasionally too enthusiastic and loud, but Danchenko was able to make himself heard at all times. The program began with Samuel Barber's Second Essay for Orchestra. This relatively early (1942) work has a mix of youthful innocence and neo-romantic lushness to which Murai and his players responded with power and concentration.

Several years ago, Murai led an impressive performance of Sibelius' Second Symphony. His concert on this occasion concluded with an equally fine reading of the same composer's Symphony No. 5.

This was a performance that was not particularly attentive to dynamic shading or to tonal refinement -- those are difficult tasks with even fine student orchestras.

But it flowed with power and eloquence that were more than sufficient to create the authentic chill that invariably signifies successful Sibelius.

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