E.-P. Salonen, Violin Concerto / Nyx, L. Josefowicz, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, E.-P. Salonen (Deutsche Grammophon, 2012)
At some point along the way Salonen's violin concerto has lost its subtitle, "Out of Nowhere," referring to the way that the solo part begins in media res. The constant stream of notes, accompanied by celesta, glockenspiel, and vibraphone, gives the impression of a pixie flitting about spraying fairy dust everywhere, with Josefowicz's harmonic notes somehow imitating the metallic sounds around her. A marvelous part for contrabass clarinet reinforces the entrance of the bass instruments on long notes (marked "stagger breath"), sounding like a tidal surge but given the first movement's title ("Mirage") may refer to the visual waves produced by extreme heat. The first inner movement ("Pulse I") is framed by sections of artificial harmonics in the solo part, showcasing Josefowicz's impeccable E string technique, through which she produced a perfectly tuned sound that could cut through any texture but never be harsh.
In both the pulse movements, playful rhythmic patterns became the focus, with the timpani in "Pulse I" pounding on the beat and then, through a sleight of hand, off the beat, for example. Wooden percussion and brass provided the impulse in "Pulse II," eliciting more wooden, hollow sounds from Josefowicz's tremolos. Salonen uses the orchestra for subtle, coloristic purposes for much of the piece until, at the end of the third movement, the ensemble goes on a wild rampage, with the solo shrieking along in crazy glissandi. ("Something very Californian about this," Salonen noted, laconically, in his composer's note.) The composer's affecting farewell to his former band, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is heard in the fourth movement ("Adieu"), with the most tender, introspective music of the concerto, including a rising scalar motif, almost like a jet slowly taking off from LAX. Salonen, for his part that "this is not a specific farewell to anything in particular," although later he admitted that "it is not a coincidence that the last movement is called 'Adieu'."
Anne Midgette, A maverick soloist offers a classic new work (Washington Post, June 3)
Sadly, Haydn's Symphony No. 104, the last of the series of twelve for the London visit, where he was when he composed it, seemed like an afterthought at the start of the concert. Eschenbach took the greatest number of liberties, often seeming to work against the score's best interests, stretching out the slow introduction of the first movement and then pushing the fast section to the edge, not seeming to have convinced the musicians of what he wanted to do. The second movement felt over-mannered, every articulation exaggerated but without the necessary precision in attacks or in the ends of sounds. The trio of the third movement had the best results, with a relaxed tempo and approach to dynamics producing an elegant sound, while the finale was spirited but not really witty.
This concert repeats this evening, in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.