Was it the loan of his violin from the Chicago-based Stradivari Society?
Was it the gravitas of Conductor Carlos Kalmar, now marking the 20th Anniversary of his tenure with Grant Park Music Festival?
Or maybe the imagined thrill of performing on the stage of the architecturally stunning Pritzker Pavilion?
However this exquisite performer was lured to perform for the Grant Park Music Festival audiences, in this writer’s view, Chicago couldn’t have marked the summer solstice with anything better than hearing concert violinist Augustin Hadelich bring Brahm’s Violin Concerto in D Major to life on its stage. This was Brahms most LIVE!
Though perhaps one of the, if not THE, most recognizable of Brahms’ works, this was something new. It was not only the intricate cadenza that Hadelich had composed—seeming to be a pearl diver retrieving treasure from the essence of this work’s soul—it was also the way in which he infused every phrase of his solo performance with life. This was especially so for the last movement, in this writer’s view. As his bow hit chords of lower notes, or seemed to almost whistle like a new bird species at the upper register, it perhaps rendered any prior hearing of this music moot.
Perhaps even more astounding was the person of Hadelich many concert goers got to meet in the pre-concert talk led by Access Contemporary Music (ACM) Director Seth Boustead. Modest and unassuming would be words most would likely use to describe Hadelich’s person. Boustead, perhaps not wanting to be a spoiler of the thrill ahead, simply summed up, “…he does interesting things with this work that you will enjoy…”.
Many in the audience were shivering in the unseasonable cold for which few seemed to be appropriately dressed. That Hadelich held us so close in his bow’s charms despite the weather added to the feeling of this performance being historic. After three spirited standing ovations and eruptions of Bravo!s from all sides, he returned to give a Paganini encore, showing us more of the virtuosity at his command.
Meanwhile, Conductor Kalmar stood in the back letting all spotlight go to his soloist, whom he too seemed to be stealing a moment to just enjoy.
Celebrating Carlos Kalmar’s first 20 Years with the Grant Park Music Festival
Perhaps Hadelich’s performance was another gift to much admired Kalmar. The evening had begun with composer Stacy Garrop’s work Shiva Dances. Commissioned by Grant Park Music Festival to honor Carlos Kalmar’s 20th Anniversary as Principal Conductor, she had explained that it celebrates the destruction of the universe to make way for a new universe being born.
If you chat up very long-time Grant Park Music Festival patrons, you will run into more than one who recounts the time when they heard Van Cliburn perform. This writer guesses that Hadelin’s performance will register similarly as one for the history books.
This same program is performed on June 22.
For more information on the Grant Park Music Festival, bookmark the Picture this Post GRANT PARK MUSIC FESTIVAL 2019 Preview.
Photos: Norman Timonera