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Jun Märkl and Stefan Jackiw offer Magical Mendelssohn

10.23.16
Stefan Jackiw
Vancouver Sun

At first glance, guest conductor Jun Märkl’s program Saturday (part of the VSO Masterworks Gold series) looked like an intriguing selection of works heavy on colour and finesse. Both were in ample supply, although the dynamic of the evening proved a just a bit more problematic.
 
Märkl began with a 2011 work by Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa. Blossoming II is a delicate study in refined timbral shifts, with a hint of more extroverted writing at a few brief climax points. The VSO players’ sustained attention allowed Märkl to focus on detail with telling effect: his work with the orchestra was as sophisticated as the music,  emphasizing subtly scaled moments of evanescent beauty. 
 
Nothing evanescent about the stellar work Märkl and young American violinist Stefan Jackiw delivered in Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, a piece we hear season in and season out—but not like this! Jackiw is the epitome of agility, wonderfully effective in Mendelssohn’s light, febrile outer movements. Rather than the stodgy sentimentality often on offer in the piece, this interpretation was fresh and electrifying. Working with a reduced orchestra, Märkl demonstrated his understanding of the delicate balance between classical and romantic impulses in the concerto, perfectly complementing his soloist.