ERSO brought a diverse program to concertgoers on Friday night; two Russian giants of modernism and a German romantic turned Finnish innovator. But the real gem was the bravura interpretation of the night’s featured soloist.
First we had the music of Fredrik Pacius. Born in Germany, Pacius made his name in Finland writing the music for the national anthems of both Finland and Estonia and developing what would become one of the world’s great cultures of symphonic music. He also wrote the music for Finland’s first opera, "The Hunt of King Charles". ERSO performed its overture on Friday; a rousing and pleasant bit of Romanticism that provided an anchor to the avant-garde flights that followed.
Passing from the comfortable euphoniousness of Pacius, the complex emotive world of Shostakovich appeared. Anna-Liisa Bezrodny’s interpretation of Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No 1 gave form to the evening.
Bezrodny’s is an impressive stage presence; confident and concentrated. Her focus over this quite long and varied violin concerto was nothing short of amazing. From the languid first movement to the concerto’s energetic conclusion, Bezrodny occupied her own musical space, and took concertgoers along for the ride.
But for Bezrodny, the violin is practically another appendage. She has been playing the instrument since age two and comes from a family of distinguished musicians in Moscow. Her parents, her father a Russian and her mother a Finn, are professors at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki where Bezrodny became a student. Her formal musical education and awards continued apace, and as a young woman she has travelled the globe winning plaudits along the way.
Near the end of Shostakovich’s work, there is an extended solo passage without any orchestral accompaniment. This was a chance for Bezrodny to be a bit of rock star a la Jimmy Hendrix. She attacked this passage with a furious intensity that left her violin bow frayed. The playing was precise, however, and every note rang clear as she hit her instrument’s highest registers. Truly entertaining.
The concert concluded with music from Stravinsky’s ballet, "Firebird", an interesting choice from ERSO. A bricolage of contrasting symphonic forms, the music from "Firebird" came in at almost an hour, and must have been a bit befuddling for anyone who just popped in for a night at the symphony. Stravinsky’s premiers were sometimes occasioned by riots in Paris and Frank Zappa was said to be an aficionado. I can see how both of these things are true. But as a complex work, ERSO pulled it off, superb ensemble that it is, so everyone could go home happy.
Review by Mike Amundsen