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Augustin Hadelich

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Echoes of Paris (Poulenc, Stravinsky, Debussy, Prokofiev),
A. Hadelich, R. Kulek
It is an unfortunate result of the music recording industry's obsession with photogenic marketability that second-rate violinists receive major contracts, while a far superior player like Augustin Hadelich does not. As shown again in a Wednesday night recital in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, with pianist Rohan de Silva, the Italian-born violinist, now in his late 20s, is an extraordinary musician, as heard in recent solo and chamber recitals in the area and his debut with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Hadelich's program, for the Fortas Chamber Music series, showcased two contrasting personalities, both drawn forth with a broad sound from his 1723 "Ex-Kiesewetter" Stradivarius, all meat and tannins: a persuasive, classical restraint in Beethoven and Brahms; and a fiery brashness in Poulenc and Sarasate. The laser-accurate intonation, the impeccable rhythmic sense in clear attacks, the attention to detail in how each note concluded, the eloquent arc of phrasing -- all of these things lined up technically, only to be overshadowed by the beauty and freshness of the music making in the moment.

Hadelich showed he had a great way with a phrase in Beethoven's sixth violin sonata (op. 30/1), with crisp sixteenth notes and gentle phrasing in the first movemen; a plush cantilena in the slow movement, with an immaculate sense of the arc of each line; and a folksy, rustic quality to the impishly mischievous third movement. What a contrast of tone, then, in the Romantic fuoco applied to the first movement of Poulenc's sonata for violin and piano, which leads off Hadelich's latest disc on the Avie label, the Strad's throaty G string given a diabolical theatricality. The second movement had a smoky lassitude, a sultry tango studded with flawless double stops, spoiled scandalously by the ring of a cell phone. The third movement's circus antics were brought to a standstill by a tragic crash, a dramatic shift that leads the piece into an elegiac lament. Here as throughout the program Rohan de Silva played ably, impressing not so much by technical achievement or musical independence but by his careful support of his partner.

Other Reviews:

Robert Battey, Violinist Augustin Hadelich deserves a higher profile (Washington Post, December 9)
The highlight of the program was a turbulent, noble interpretation of the Brahms first violin sonata, op. 78, which drew me in from the heart-breaking simplicity of the first movement's first theme, especially when it returned at the recapitulation -- fraught with urgency and yet simultaneously with a sense of covered emotion. The overwhelmingly bass-oriented second movement, all low violin strings and left side of the keyboard, was rich and passionate, with Hadelich handling the rhythmic complexity -- the hemiolas that misplace the sense of downbeat so frequently in Brahms -- with unmannered poise. The third movement, set at the right sort of moderato tempo, was moody, slightly irritable, but always played close to the vest. With the planned Zimmermann sonata sadly removed from the program, all that was left was encore territory with Pablo de Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen, op. 20. Hadelich played this daunting technical exercise with an astounding control of intonation and beauty of tone, taking in the instrument's full compass of dynamic and technical range. Even more impressive, the piece had soul and did not sound like the glitzy trash it really could be. The actual encore was a tuneful performance of Nathan Milstein's transcription of Chopin's Nocturne in C# minor.

The Fortas Chamber Music series returns next month, with the Weiss-Kaplan-Newman Trio (January 18), in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater.

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