No one can accuse Vadim Repin of jumping the gun on an encore. Unlike some other soloists, whose encores are not quite justified by the enthusiasm or persistence of the audience, Repin disappeared for what seemed like a long minute after his Sibelius
Thursday night with the Philadelphia Orchestra, leaving the audience in a state of sustained anticipation.
Maybe he was backstage gathering up two or three other violinists for an assist, since that's the only reasonable explanation for the flood of notes in Paganini's
Introduction and Variations on "Nel cor più non mi sento" from Paisiello's "La molinara.
It was Repin alone, of course, in the 10-minute-plus work, whose simple tune is a flimsy excuse to unleash just about every special string trick in the book - and sometimes several at once. Pizzicato, the common act of plucking rather than bowing, is heavily featured, but Paganini didn't stop there. There are pizzicato notes played with the left hand while the right continues to bow; pizzicato trills; chromatic runs so fast they blur; split-second jumps from one extreme register to another; and a dozen other techniques too dangerous to mention in a family newspaper.
It would have come off as a cheap parlor trick had the Siberian violinist not played it with such alarming dexterity and precision, and after a Sibelius concerto of revelation. Repin is an extraordinarily fine musician, the kind of personality who can turn on a dime to meet the expressive potentialities of a triumphal phrase or introspective narrative. He has a sweet, intense sound with a lot of presence. It seemed possible, on this night, that in terms of technical polish and force of personality, Repin's equals worldwide would total a small handful.
The orchestra had on its glowing, most vibrant sound, even if Christoph Eschenbach's command of ensemble had a couple of touch-and-go flashes in the third movement.
Eschenbach's big statement opening these last few programs of his tenure was Bruckner's
Symphony No. 6
, which held together rather well. Yes, elements of a more sophisticated interpretation were not within his view. I wish he had not allowed so many phrases to wither and die near their end, but instead had insisted on sustained momentum. And other conductors might have cared more about the balance of certain chords and key moments when one instrument had important material that struggled to be heard. But even apart from some wonderful third-movement playing from the lithe winds and a horn section led by Jennifer Montone, this Bruckner 6 had much to recommend it. Its most attractive quality was a high emotional charge fed by the ensemble's rich sound.
Tonight at 8 in Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center, Broad and Spruce Streets. 215-893-1999,