Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

April 1, 2014

Prokofiev & Beethoven

Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Springfield, MA
March 29, 2014
by Michael J. Moran

Despite his absence from its title, it was Bach whose music set the tone for this program, first in the scheduled opening presentation of his third Brandenburg Concerto, and then in an encore by guest soloist Yevgeny Kutik of the “Largo” from his third sonata for solo violin.

Yevgeny Kutik
None of the six Brandenburgs turn up much in live performance, but as the shortest in the set, with only two chords for a central slow movement, the third makes a perky concert opener. SSO Music Director Kevin Rhodes conducted a slightly reduced orchestra from the harpsichord, where his strong keyboard skills were sometimes not audible enough. The players seemed to enjoy working with their leader in this fresh way, and their lively, disciplined account of the concerto reflected the order and balance of the classical tradition.

The national profile of the charismatic, young (late-20s) Kutik was raised by a recent New York Times article about his new album, “Music from the Suitcase.” Born in Minsk, Belarus, he moved with his family in 1990 to the Berkshires, where he grew up to win several awards, one of which led to a Boston Pops debut in 2003.

Kutik's passionate account of Prokofiev’s second violin concerto proved him both a master technician and a mature interpreter of this challenging score. He played with a full, rich tone, which he roughened for some dramatic passages in the opening and closing movements and lightened for the softer music of the rhapsodic slow movement. The orchestra matched the commitment of his performance with a flair and color of its own, from the dark strings to the bass drum and even castanets in the finale.

Prompted by a tumultuous ovation, the Bach encore confirmed Kutik’s stature as a major talent who could hold the audience rapt even in this quiet piece. And it reminded listeners that both Prokofiev and Beethoven, whose modest fourth symphony followed intermission, learned much from the strong architecture of Bach’s music. 

There was nothing modest about the SSO’s blazing rendition of the Beethoven, which Rhodes’s energetic baton brought to memorable life.