Review: Violinist Yu dazzles in tuneful program

Greenville NewsFull Review

By Ann Hicks: April 9, 2016

Maestro Edvard Tchivzhel promised the Friday evening Gunther Theatre audience gathered to hear the Greenville Symphony Chamber Orchestra’s season closer that, post-concert, they “would whistle the tunes all the way home.”

With that in mind, the program titled “Some Enchanting Evening” featured an eclectic selection of works by composers whose musical language was pleasing from the first note to the last. And just as importantly, the program gave the audience a chance to hear the GSO’s concertmaster, Xiaoqing Yu, solo in three showy works that require true mastery of the violin.

Let me say this from the start: If you like melodies that can live with you for days or even inspire weeks of humming, this is the concert for you.

The first half of all that enchantment, exuberantly conveyed by the string and wind sections, was taken up by Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 5, scored in four, light, sunny movements. In this whipped-cream-and-other-delights piece, the then 19-year old Viennese composer, a beloved pupil of Antonio Salieri, commits his melodic and harmonic imagination to honor two giants of the Classical period: Mozart and Haydn. The maestro’s choice to begin the program with this lyrical work set a perfect stage for the second half’s tune-whistlers to follow.

First up was Argentine composer Carlos Gardel’s “Por una Cabeza, written in 1935 and adapted 57 years later as “The Tango,” arranged by American composer John Williams for the 1992 movie “Scent of a Woman.” It’s sexy, emotional music that requires duel commitment from the performer; Yu seemed not as involved emotionally as he was technically — the audience response to the solo was less then high spirited. In this instance, the orchestra’s accompaniment — wonderful castanet and accordion additions — did the emotional lift.

With the second selection, Yu gave a solid performance of Mexican composer Manuel Ponce’s “Estrellita,” a beloved nostalgia viva piece, arranged for violin by the renowned Jascha Heifetz. This time, it was the soloist from whose bow the color and the vibratos prominently rose. The audience rewarded the interpretation of this nostalgic gem with strong applause.

But it was the final solo piece, French composer Camille Saint-Saens’ fiendishly difficult “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso,” in which Yu’s passion flowed freely. Vigorously tapping his right foot throughout his performance and furiously tossing arpeggios like hand grenades, Yu did one heck of a job. The orchestral support, especially its great flute and oboe partners, made the experience complete. Yu exited the stage to extended applause but left the flower bouquet behind.

The concert closed with three selections from Czech composer Antonin Dvorak’s “Slavonic Dances.” Tchivzhel drove them and the orchestra with so much energy, I thought he’d fly off the rostrum. It was a terrific closer to the season’s chamber performances. Don’t miss the opportunity to whistle the tunes all the way home.

The concert will be repeated Saturday, April 9 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 10 at 3 p.m. For tickets, call the Peace Center box office at 864-467-3000 or see the website peacecenter.org.