It’s always rewarding to watch someone who’s very, very good at what he or she does perform. A carpenter, a chef, a dancer or a musician at the top of his or her game is a treat, no matter what they create or perform. Such was the case at the Bangor Symphony Orchestra’s concert Sunday at the Collins Center for the Arts, which featured violinist Stefan Jackiw performing Jean Sibelius’ Violin Concerto.
Jackiw, a slim, black-clad man of 25, presented his mastery of his instrument at many points during the performance of Sibelius’ piercingly lovely concerto. Jackiw, seemingly transported, summoned images of creaking ice, mountains and fire throughout the first movement, perhaps one of the most evocative performances given in a BSO concert in recent years.
The lyrical second movement bridged the gap between the first and third movements, which has accurately been described as a “polonaise for polar bears.” Jackiw performed a brutal kind of dance, navigating the difficult waters of one of the great violin pieces of the 20th century. The crashing, dynamic sound, involving a great deal of violin acrobatics, is something only a virtuoso can create, which Jackiw most certainly is. He received a standing ovation, though sadly, no encore was played.
Guest conductor Edward Cumming kept the orchestra alternately bright and subdued during the Sibelius piece. The opening number, Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, Opus 62, was a rousing start, with lots of dramatic pauses and exciting, discordant builds into satisfying resolutions.
Sunday’s concert was top-heavy, however, as the sole performance of the second half, Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 in G major, was a bit of a letdown after Jackiw’s electrifying performance. It started out strong, with the glowing, romantic theme introduced by flute and a generally pleasing, pastoral atmosphere. After an adagio second movement and a waltz-time third, however, the fourth movement began to lose steam. The orchestra played well, certainly, but a kind of deflation had occurred by the time the Dvorak was over. Fortunately, audience members went home with the memory of Jackiw’s virtuosity still fresh in their minds.