When a guest artist is forced to cancel an appearance due to illness or injury, it can really disrupt a symphony orchestra's carefully laid out plans. How quickly can a suitable replacement be engaged? Will the concert's repertoire need to be changed?
While such occurrences are infrequent, they do create unanticipated challenges for conductor and orchestra alike. Stefan Jackiw, a young violinist who made a spectacular debut with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic two seasons ago, was forced to cancel his engagement due to a recent injury. Jackiw's agent, Opus 3 Artists, offered Ryu Goto as a substitute.
The good news? Goto was happy to perform the previously announced Beethoven “Violin Concerto in D Major.” At age 24, Goto, much like any aspiring concert artist, is a work in progress. He's a distinguished looking soloist who exudes confidence and charm.
There's also a magisterial quality to his playing that beckons listeners to sit up and take notice. But the Beethoven “Violin Concerto,” which ranks as an unqualified repertory masterpiece, places enormous demands on a soloist of any age.
Many violinists, in fact, delay programming the Beethoven until they've accumulated considerable musical and life experience. The solo part is deceptively simple looking; it's an endless array of scale passages and arpeggios. But making those passages sound fully convincing requires a musical profundity that few young artists can summon.
Not to say Goto didn't have some distinct interpretive ideas about this concerto. It's just that some of his choices were inconsistent with Beethoven's score. In the opening movement, for example, Goto applied rubato to a passage that sounded more mannered than organic each time it appeared.
There was also the use of accents that the composer simply didn't call for. Such interpretive choices shoved this concerto further into music's Romantic period than accepted performance practice allows.
Goto's approach to the glorious Larghetto was similarly uneven. One heard many lovely moments that were nicely couched in the soloist's beautiful sound. At other times, however, Goto would stretch a melody beyond its customary boundaries. It was a serene reading that only hinted at the poetry within.
From an interpretive standpoint, Goto's musical choices worked best in the finale, with Beethoven's jaunty tunes containing ample spirit and playfulness. Whatever disagreements Levine might have had about Goto's approach to this concerto, he provided the soloist with beautiful and rhythmically solid accompaniments that any performer would be happy to receive. As for Goto, he's an artist who holds considerable promise.
The first half of this “Pristine Visions” concert featured Antonin Dvorak's “Symphony No. 8 in G Major,” generally considered the sunniest of the composer's nine symphonies. Like Beethoven, Dvorak often works with melodic or rhythmic fragments which he then pieces together to form a harmonious whole.
In some respects, Dvorak could be considered the Czech equivalent to Brahms. His orchestral writing is melodically innovative and orchestrated in a highly distinctive manner. The brass added weight and brawn to the opening movement while the second featured a warm burnished sound.
The Allegretto brought to mind Dvorak's “Slavonic Dances,” an unmistakably Czech approach to melody and lilting rhythms. In the finale, Levine's careful pacing made certain that no matter how many detours Dvorak made along the way, there was never any doubt that this movement was headed to an inevitable and exciting climax. It proved to be just the right tonic for a wintry evening.
— Rick Rogers