Stefan Jackiw, who treated the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra audience to a dazzling performance of Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy – a piece that delivers all the virtuosic fireworks, but whose beauty absolutely rests on the pristine simplicity of its folk melodies.It was one of those magical nights when a performer exceeds expectations. And expectations were high for violinist
Jackiw is one of those performers who knocks off excruciatingly difficult passages with ease. Artists of his caliber, however, can sometimes overplay the melodic sections. Not so with Jackiw. He dialed back his rich sound (and gorgeous vibrato) to show us the true heart of the music, which lies in its simple, haunting melodies, not the fiery variations upon which they are based.
Jackiw is an energetic performer whose entire body conveys the music’s emotional path. His bow control is not to be believed, both at the beginning of the work (when a lesser player would be hard-pressed not to show at least a hint of nerves) and during one sustained low note that seemingly went on forever without a bow change. Jackiw’s tone kept spinning out and yet his bow was moving in what could only have been mere millimeters. Honestly, I’ve never seen anything like it.
Like most of us, I enjoy watching performers who are fun to watch. It’s a fairly basic desire on my part. I want to see someone who is connecting with the orchestra, conductor, and audience – oh, and to the work being performed. Jackiw has such incredible command of his instrument and the piece that there was never a moment of questioning whether he was up to the task. His body language seemed to say, "Sit back and I’ll take you on a wonderful journey and, trust me, I won’t let you miss a thing."
KSO Music Director Aram Demirjian was a worthy partner to Jackiw, attentive at every turn and matching his youthful enthusiasm bounce for bounce. The orchestra played with a sparkling confidence befitting a soloist of this stature. Special kudos to these principal players: Devan Jaquez, flute, Claire Chenette, oboe, and Jeffery Whaley, horn.
Also on the program was Anna Clyne's marvelously entertaining Pivot and Beethoven's ever-beautiful Symphony #6 (Pastoral).
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