Hadelich's performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto, with Ludovic Morlot conducting, brings this reviewer to tell readers, "Go if you possibly can."

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Concert review

Every once in a while, a concert artist comes along whose playing is so riveting, so beautifully original, that you want to exhort every reader: “Go if you possibly can.”

Such an artist is the violinist Augustin Hadelich, whose performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto drew a rafter-rattling ovation from a rapt Seattle Symphony audience on Thursday evening.

Hadelich is, of course, no stranger to Seattle audiences; he has appeared here not only with the Symphony (with which he won a Grammy Award) but also with the Seattle Chamber Music Society. This year he was named Instrumentalist of the Year by Musical America.

His Beethoven concerto proved a revelation. No gimmicks, no fuss, no virtuoso airs or exaggerations: just great musicianship, superb taste, and a bow arm that makes the violin sing. What Hadelich can do on a purely technical level boggles the music lover. But he has far more than technique; he has great subtlety and depth of feeling. Hadelich has the imagination to make the most of every line, and to shape a heart-stopping cadenza.

A riotous ovation was rewarded with an encore: the famous Paganini Caprice No. 24, a work that has inspired major works by many subsequent composers, most notably Rachmaninov. Fiendishly difficult, this Caprice emerged with supersonic speed and tremendous panache.

Conductor Ludovic Morlot (himself a violinist) and the orchestra gave the soloist commendable, supportive partnership, in a sensitive reading of this beloved concerto.

The first half of the program also found the orchestra in excellent shape for two movements of Debussy’s “Images,” followed by Janáček’s Suite from “The Cunning Little Vixen.” It must have been a difficult decision to omit the second and probably the most popular movement of the three “Images,” “Iberia,” from this program. Morlot wanted to make room in the program’s first half for the Janáček suite, demonstrating the influence of Debussy on this work.

The two Debussy pieces were particularly successful, with gauzy textures and translucent passages, and a lot of virtuoso playing from the woodwinds. This is repertoire that brings out the best in Morlot, who has made his orchestra an excellent exponent of great French music. The Janáček also featured a short but lovely solo from the orchestra’s new concertmaster, Noah Geller, playing his first subscription concert in that role.


The Seattle Symphony Orchestra presents “Beethoven Violin Concerto,” with Ludovic Morlot conducting, and Augustin Hadelich, violin soloist; Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; Thursday evening (repeated at 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday; 206-215-4747, seattlesymphony.org).