Chicago Philharmonic, soloists inspire genuine ovations
Updated: May 23, 2012 6:58PM
Standing ovations are so common at concerts and plays that the New York Times has declared war on them. And indeed, they have become devalued.
But Sunday night the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra’s concertmaster David Perry played Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with such speed, dexterity and style that the well-deserved standing ovation at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall in Evanston went on for several minutes.
Perry’s performance of this Romantic masterpiece displayed virtuosic technique as well as sensitivity and emotion with a kind of authentic wizardry well beyond the powers of the fictional Hogwarts.
On the podium was Larry Rachleff, the orchestra’s music director and principal conductor, who lives in Houston. He manages to conduct a concert each season with the Philharmonic, and this was a stellar one.
With the star power of Perry, Rachleff led his team of Chicago professionals, about half of whom play in the Lyric Opera Orchestra, in a standard-setting performance.
Just after it was written, Tchaikovsky’s concerto was deemed unplayable by no less than violin virtuoso Leopold Auer and its 1881 premiere it was attacked viciously by influential music critic Edward Hanslick, who charged that in it the violin is “torn, beaten black and blue.”
That is certainly not the way modern audiences experience it, however. It is, in fact, performed often and very much enjoyed.
In that spirit Sunday Perry dug right into the challenging phrases and breakneck tempos, working up to a kind of fury as he untangled the phrases and navigated the rippling rhythms.
After the first movement the audience applauded, which was obviously the response the composer wanted!
The second movement, Canzonetta: Andante, begins as a love song and bursts into passionate flame. Its Russian soul is evident in every phrase, slightly mournful but beautiful too.
On Sunday Perry’s violin was frequently paired with the flute, played by the orchestra’s principal Jean Berkenstock. The combination of instruments sparkled together and at the end, she was singled out for applause.
The concert concluded with Symphony No. 8 by another Romantic, Antonin Dvorak, with Perry back in the concertmaster’s chair. Like Tchaikovsky’s, Dvorak’s music overflows with melodies, many with the distinctive touch of his native Bohemia.
The Chicago Philhamonic is so flexible that, under Rachleff’s direction, it can raise the roof or simply whisper. At one point in the Adagio movement, the winds played a melody which soared above a breezy beat. And the little child-like song in the following movement was full of sunlight.
As a surprise, when the concert was finished David Perry played an unaccompanied encore — the second movement of Bach’s Partita in E Major.
And yes, we stood again.