Review | Augustin Hadelich & Elim Chan Make Welcome Return to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra

Advertisement / Publicité

This was an unusual week at the TSO. After violin superstar Nicola Benedetti cancelled her appearance on short notice, the orchestra had to scramble for a last minute program change. Audiences were no doubt disappointed about Benedetti’s cancellation, as she was scheduled to perform the Canadian premiere of the Wynton Marsalis Violin Concerto, a piece specially written for her. This may explain the many empty seats at Roy Thomson Hall last night.

Fortunately, the TSO found a more than worthy replacement in Italian-German-American virtuoso Augustin Hadelich, who already wowed Toronto audiences earlier this season with his Sibelius Violin Concerto. Also making a welcome return is Hong Kong-born conductor Elim Chan, whose TSO debut in 2020 just before the pandemic garnered rave reviews. When not leading the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra as its principal conductor, Chan is busy guest-conducting around the world.

The Beethoven Violin Concerto in D major was an excellent showcase for Hadelich’s technical brilliance. He delivered equal measures of passion and sensitivity without excessive flourish. The orchestra, on the other hand, did not exactly get off on a good start in the first movement. Despite Chan running a tight ship, it took extra effort pull the sluggish orchestra along and just to keep the ship afloat. The orchestra sounded bland against Hadelich’s clean and perfectly intonated performance. Hadelich’s Larghetto was introspective and beautifully shaped. It gave one the feeling that the Beethoven is meant to be savoured like a wine that slowly reveals its character. The Rondo finally saw the orchestra coming alive and matching the vigour of Hadelich’s robust playing. Hadelich’s encore was a surprising yet delightful choice: the jazzy “Louisana Blues Strut” by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson. It further ascertains that there is nothing this fiddle-master can’t play.

The second half, Brahm’s Symphony No. 2 in D Major, drew all-over fine playing from the orchestra. The piece was given a fresh and exciting interpretation by Chan, with no lack of dynamic contrasts. It was mesmerizing to watch her conduct. Though diminutive in size, she was a dynamite who commanded with laser focus and demanded a lot from her musicians. Mirroring her energetic and expressive conducting, the orchestra responded with both elegance and exuberance. The chemistry between Chan and the orchestra was undeniable.

Though Chan is not yet a well-known figure in the Canadian music world, this young conductor is proving to be a tour de force with a fast-moving career in Europe. Toronto waited three years for Chan’s return. Let’s hope that she graces our podium again very soon.

Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents Brahms 2 & Hadelich Plays Beethoven at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto, May 31, June 1 & 3, 2023.


About Author

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.