Macelaru leads Philly Orchestra with “fitful brilliance”

Macelaru leads Philly Orchestra with “fitful brilliance”

Cristian Macelaru and Renaud Capucon take a bow following their May 12, 2017 performance of the Korngold Violin Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts (Photo credit: Charlotte Lee)

Review: At Philadelphia Orchestra, Capuçon visits, Macelaru steps in
The Philadelphia Inquirer
By David Patrick Stearns
May 12, 2017

Once dismissed for sounding like golden-age-of-Hollywood movie music, Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Violin Concerto is now beloved for exactly that reason. And although the Philadelphia Orchestra and conductor-in-residence Cristian Macelaru gave the piece maximum shimmer Thursday at the Kimmel Center, guest violinist Renaud Capuçon had an unusually persistent shade to contend with: Not Errol Flynn or Bette Davis (who starred in the films whose scores were the basis of the concerto), but Jascha Heifetz, the violinist who premiered the 1947 concerto.

The gorgeously histrionic Korngold melodies that showed off Heifetz’s luster were played by Capuçon (one of the A-plus violinists of his generation) with a more Brahmsian sensibility, chiseling down to the music’s message with more rugged phrase shaping rather than the pure sound that Heifetz brought to the piece.

Without that extra ounce of succulence (and air of seduction), Capuçon sought detailed shading in music that’s perhaps best heard when seamlessly picturesque. Probe this concerto for subtext, and see if anybody really cares. But let’s never take a violinist of Capuçon’s calibre for granted. This was a significant performance.

Macelaru stepped in for the canceled Tugan Sokhiev, gamely conducting Liadov’s witty, sonorous but rarely heard tone poem Kikimora and leading Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 with fitful brilliance.

Macelaru has a poet’s ear for shaping the phrases like ocean waves in the symphony’s moments of emotional overdrive. The orchestra’s hallmark with Russian music is realizing the rhetoric with more color than brute force, though this performance had a balance of both.

The program is to be repeated at 8pm Saturday at the Kimmel Center. Information: 215-893-1999 or

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