Sergey Kachatryan looks a curly headed Pan and plays like him too, on the violin. The young man's pitches are impossibly clean. He pays more attention to expressivity than bravura. Sensibility and softness dominate until its time to pull out the stops. The cadenza to the Shostakovich Violin Concerto in A minor blazed as he built it into a bonfire.
The Armenian artist, a master of the long, long line, was a guest of the Philadelphia Orchestra, with Kurt Masur on the podium. It's a special relationship. Kachatryan and Masur have recorded together. It is difficult to imagine a more sensitive or compelling or mature interpretation than the one heard Saturday night. The Nocturne shaded to many qualities of sorrow, the Scherzo showing a fiddler's quicksilver bow. Against the gaiety of the violin, k, Angela Nelson's tympani was well disposed. The Burlesque when it arrived, provided a riot of orchestral color and relief. Masur left with deft economy but feeling was the point.
After the performance, the house gave four standing ovations, then the Philadelphians played a concerto of its own: Richard Strauss's tone poem, Till Eulenspiegel, Op. 29. The lightness of those merry pranks were not lost on the house after Shostakovich's mournful moods. It was a wonderful performance, horns, woodwinds, strings, taking their turns at the gleeful, jumping theme. Brahms' Second Symphony in D Major had opened, good and sturdy and with a fine principal horn (Jennifer Montone's) but not so stirring as the beautiful Shostakovich and playful Strauss. Those two would have been enough for any evening. So easeful was the Strauss, Masur reprised the last half dozen bars as encore. You can hear Till Eulenspiegel on its own Tuesday night when the Philadelphia Orchestra and maestro Rossen Milanov play their next Access Concert with co-hosts Brian Newhouse and Steven Kreinberg.