Znaider makes Beethoven concerto a singular experience

Stéphane Denève led the Philadelphia Orchestra program.

In the Beethoven Violin Concerto on Thursday night, you could pick out strands of soloist Nikolaj Znaider's musical DNA - the sweetness of Fritz Kreisler, the muscularity of Zino Francescatti, and his own exquisite wisdom for setting off the poetic against the prosaic.

The Beethoven with the Philadelphia Orchestra led by Stéphane Denève was a singular experience. But the Bach encore without them represented a kind of transfiguration, of the piece and the listener.

The "Sarabande" from the D Minor Partita can come off as a lesson in harmony, especially in a hall as large as Verizon. Znaider distorted - lovingly - the pace at which harmonies unfolded to an extent that made unusual connections between notes. He modulated his tone in fine degrees to add another layer of meaning. Emotionally, it was changed, ambiguous.

There was the sense that the violinist was using the hall as his soundboard, and, as yards shrank to inches, that he had found a method for distilling into a sound all that is fragile in the world.

Denève had a quirky way of jerking the tempo forward on those recurring repeated notes in the Beethoven's first movement. Jarring, that. But his influence moderated, and Znaider's achievement lifted the ensemble around him. Principal bassoonist Daniel Matsukawa, of mellow tone and a driving line, was notably strong. The second movement was a multitude of tempos. Delicate music like this easily could have broken apart were it not for Znaider stitching gold threads into the structure with intensity of sound and glints of emotion.

Denève was also a moderating influence in the program's one other work, Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10. He was a capable traffic cop and, in accepting applause at the end, modestly patted the score, as if signaling that the magic was in that stack of paper. True enough. But not many orchestras bring a sound to Shostakovich both beautifully rounded and tart.

Denève tipped his hat to players, too. The pleasures came at all levels: individually, in flutist David Cramer's gorgeously worried low solo over a pizzicato accompaniment and principal clarinetist Ricardo Morales' fine blending. Sections shone, with the brief bassoon choir, beefy trumpets, and violas acting in total accord. And after a rough attack or two in the first movement, the ensemble extended its velvety franchise to the greater glory of a highly distinctive Shostakovich sound.


Additional performance: 8 p.m. Saturday at Verizon Hall, Broad and Spruce Sts. Tickets: $10-$95. Information: 215-893-1999 or www.philorch.org.