The Philadelphia Orchestra was exemplary at its Thursday night concert at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, and violinist Vadim Repin added his daring brilliance to the mix.
The first half was Spanish flavored. Ravel’s orchestration to “Rapsodie espagnole” showed off his brilliant sense of color. The four movements were on various Spanish dances. They swirled with swells of sound from the strings, muted trumpets, a tambourine, flutter tonguing from the flutes and great shifts of mood.
Conductor Charles Dutoit adroitly pushed and pulled at the tempos to create mystical or haunting breezes that mercurially fell into brash flurries. In the final “Feria,” the music’s volume came and went much like a curtain being drawn across a window and then quickly opened. The sparkling sweeps of sound that the orchestra made were thrilling and brilliant.
Repin was the soloist in Lalo’s “Symphonie espagnole.” Written for the great violinist Pablo Sarasate, it demands a violinist with effortless and adventuresome technique, a lush tone and a passionate soul. Repin was in his element. Throughout the five movements, he was a bold explorer who never hesitated to make the strong statement or a tender plea.
Dutoit watched him closely and the orchestra gave him powerful support. Repin never had trouble being heard because of the clear orchestration, his big sound and a presence that would not allow itself to be pushed aside.
There were pyrotechnics aplenty, many of which brought a smile from Repin. There was also plenty of drama, which he played with a breathless soaring passion and much flair. Yet he could be lyrical, too. The many melodies were done with a fluid ease. It was a bravura performance.
The second half belonged to Richard Strauss. The opening bars of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” are probably some of the most famous, as they were used in the film “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The organ hits a very low note, the trumpets play in unison and then the orchestra plays at full volume to hit the listener with some of the most heroic bars of music ever written. From there, it’s a tone poem filled with color, mystery, expansive and beautiful melodies and huge orchestral ensemble challenges. Dutoit marshaled the forces with authority, and after an exhausting and thrilling effort, he led them through the maze.
Tonight is “The Planets,” Debussy and pianist Yuja Wang.