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LPO Treats Audience to Central European Sampler

Superstar Violinist Augustin Hadelich Joins for a 'Fantastic Voyage'

The Orpheum Theater was packed and teeming with energy on Friday (3.10) night for a performance that will surely be marked as a victory for the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. Celebrated violinist Augustin Hadelich joined Music Director Carlos Miguel Prieto for a program showcasing a wealth and diversity of folk music traditions in Central Europe.


The three composers featured in the program — Béla Bartók, Leoš Janácek, and Zoltán Kodály — were known for incorporating folk melodies and tonal scales, previously discarded among elite musical circles, to symphonic pieces in a display of broadening tastes and nationalism among concertgoers in the early twentieth century.


In the pre-concert talk, Prieto, Hadelich, and an enthusiastic cohort of Hungarian attendees discussed connections between characteristic front-end stress patterns in the Hungarian language and the folk rhythms featured in the evening’s works. These composers were all based within a few hours journey from Vienna, which at the time was home to the ‘who’s who’ of musical tastemakers. Yet, they represented and became famous for distinct national styles outside of the established German-Viennese romantic guard (e.g. Brahms, Schoenberg). The audience salivated as Hadelich described Bartók’s Violin Concerto as his favorite, and Prieto mentioned that this program is a favorite among players. Leaving to prepare with a grin, Prieto promised a program that bounces among reality, fantasy, and lies.


Bartok’s Dances of Transylvania was a perfect amuse-bouche, introducing the complex, quick and disorienting rhythms of Bartok that first surprise and puzzle, then delight a Western palette. The toothsome violin entrances and rapport between strings and wind soli evoke a fiddling tone from a countryside dance.


Hadelich appeared looking sharp (and daresay, vampiric?) in a sleek Nehru collar midnight blue suit with hidden buttons and gold collar pin. Hadelich had described Bartók’s second violin concerto as a whimsical answer to a patron’s request: adhere to established form and write a three-movement concerto. Bartók plays with variations on the first movement’s opening theme and jumps between distinct swooning French and playful Hungarian orchestrations, a treat for listeners to catch. Hadelich was stirring and polished – pausing for contemplative glances and shudders among breakneck runs. The second movement saw Principal Harp Rachel Van Voorhees Kirschman and Principal Flute Patrick Williams meld to lend a crystalline answer to Hadelich’s speed and diverse tones, alternatingly and appropriately sentimental, maddening, and fleeting. The third movement featured percussion amplifying strokes of Hadelich’s bow, now trailed by the characteristic loose horsehair of a virtuosic performance.


Prieto and Hadelich’s connection is apparent, and balance between orchestra and soloist never felt off. After his first standing ovation, Hadelich returned for an encore of Pagagnini’s Caprice No. 1 in E major, played with technical accuracy and the same raw energy of his Bartok. After his second standing ovation, Hadelich left a contented audience to break for intermission. Prieto had gleefully introduced Janácek’s Sinfonietta, in which the orchestra featured an enlarged brass section for a self-described ‘blowfest’, or fanfare in the piece’s opening and closing movements. The piece was originally called the ‘Military Sinfonietta’, and though the ‘Military’ was dropped, the orchestra remained mighty and synchronized. The LPO preserved the fanfare’s grandeur throughout, against delightfully haunting lines from Bass Clarinet John Reeks, who led the audience from an imperial court to the forests outside the city walls. Prieto’s movements were graceful but sharp as his tails rippled behind him. He led the orchestra to a regal and full-bodied conclusion.


The Maestro, beaming, took to the microphone to explain the program’s unusual configuration – with two symphonic pieces in the second half. He joked about how only his musical home of New Orleans would allow such excess in Lenten times, and yet almost all audience members remained through the last piece, eager for more.


The final piece of the night, Kodály’s Háry János Suite tells the story of a homesick Hungarian expat in Vienna who recalls vignettes in his motherland. The opening ‘sneeze’, as explained by Prieto, follows a traditional Hungarian belief that a sneeze from a storyteller precedes a true tale. The Hungarian character of the work is apparent with entrancing contributions from cembalo player Larry Kaptain, whose exchanges with Principal Clarinet Christopher Pell accurately portrayed the fog of fond memory. Prieto maintained a flexible balance among soloists and the ensemble so important musical side-plots were apparent. Animated brass and effective percussion shone in the fourth movement, which represented János’ memory of hard-won victory over Napoleon’s invading forces. The colossal finale of Kodály showcased the Hungarian grammatical stress analog, with violins driving the beginning of each musical sentence.


A sense of accomplishment permeated the room for a third standing ovation. Prieto and the LPO delivered a program that was cerebral, engaging, and well conceived. If excess becomes a regular theme for LPO programming, its audience seems ready to glut.


Fore more information and tickets for remaining performances of the LPO’s 2016-2017 ‘Fantastic Voyage’ season, please visit their website or call 504.523.6530.

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Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde


Art Director

Michael Weber, B.A.


Listings Editor

Linzi Falk

Editor Emeritus

Alexis Manrodt

B. E. Mintz

Stephen Babcock

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