Halloween is famous for tricks and treats, but inside Benaroya Hall there were only treats on Thursday night. A sizable contingent of music lovers decided to bypass Halloween candy and costumes in favor of an evening at the Seattle Symphony.
The superb violinist Augustin Hadelich, for several years a favorite with Seattle classical fans, gave a performance of the Brahms Violin Concerto that will linger long in the memory. He played the well-worn concerto as if it had been freshly invented: all flowing lines and an effortless lyricism, nailing each pitch dead center, and creating a succession of breathtaking little expressive moments. A few of these: that exquisite tiny pause just before the first appearance of the first-movement melody; and the unbelievable technical finesse of the cadenza — which Hadelich wrote.
But the whole performance was full of such moments, as Hadelich soared through the music with the expertly attentive support and partnership of guest conductor Nathalie Stutzmann. He played with his trademark rich, full tone and uncanny accuracy, as well as an obvious enjoyment of the music. The ending of the Brahms first movement was so beautiful that many in the audience forgot the usual protocols and applauded vigorously.
At the concerto’s breathtaking conclusion, the audience’s standing ovation and sustained cheering brought a remarkably delicate encore, in which the violin uncannily imitates the sound of the guitar: Tarrega’s “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” (arranged by Ruggiero Ricci). Another standing ovation brought Hadelich back to the stage for a bow, but no further encores — in the tradition of the dictum attributed to P.T. Barnum: “Always leave them wanting more.”
The concerto was placed between an attractive opener (three movements from Berlioz’s “La damnation de Faust”) and Brahms’ lusciously romantic Symphony No. 2. Stutzmann conducted throughout with a sense of lyricism and drama that remind the listener of her other career (she’s a well-known singer, a contralto). Stutzmann, who holds orchestral posts in Ireland and Norway, proved an attentive and expressive conductor. Her clarity of gesture, her careful cueing and close communication with the players, all contribute to a clear vision of the music and an ability to make her interpretation happen. The Brahms performance had lots of expressive details and dynamic contrasts, as well as the surging romanticism that infuses this score. Many principal players rose to the occasion with beautiful and compelling solo work.
One chance remains to hear this program: Saturday at 8 p.m. Don’t miss out.
Seattle Symphony Orchestra with Nathalie Stutzmann, conductor, and Augustin Hadelich, violin soloist; Thursday evening; repeated 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2; Benaroya Hall, 200 University St.; $24-$134; 206-215-4747, seattlesymphony.org