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MSO review: Bartok in the Eye of the Beholder

By William R. Wineke, Special to Channel 3000
Published On: Oct 15 2012 08:55:44 AM CDT
Updated On: Oct 16 2012 12:58:17 PM CDT
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So, it comes down to whether you like Bartok or you don’t.

Violinist James Ehnes performed Bela Bartok’s “Concerto No. 2 For Violin and Orchestra” Friday at the Madison Symphony Orchestra (performances continue at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

The consensus among the less-than-sold out audience was that he performed brilliantly.  My wife, Jacqueline, who has heard many of the world’s master musicians during the 20 plus years we’ve attended symphony concerts, says she thinks Ehnes is the best she’s ever hard.  She even acquired a CD of Ehnes playing Bartok.

I begin with her because, while she was captivated by the performance, I kept looking at my watch.

The audience also seemed a bit divided.  Ehnes received a respectable ovation and about half the patrons in the orchestra stood while he bowed.

But his encore, Paganini’s “Caprice 24,” a piece only slightly less familiar than “Turkey in the Straw,” received a rousing reception.

So, there you have it. Everyone seemed to like Ehnes and some people liked Bartok.

As is often the case with violinists, Ehnes instrument was also part of the show.  He plays a 1715 Stradivarius, which is a pretty nice violin – even if he did have to replace the bow half-way through the concerto.

The concert also includes Hector Berlioz’ “Overture to  Beatrice and Benedict,” very pretty and only eight minutes long, and Brahm’s “Symphony No. 4 in E Minor.”

Everything was performed competently, though the three pieces seemed a little, oh, I don’t know, similar.  I think the concert could have used a little lightener.

But, then, we do have that Bartok CD, which I’ve asked Jackie to play in her car and notin the living room.

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