Cleveland Orchestra remains second to none on evening of musical firsts (review)

Stefan Jackiw
Cleveland Plain Dealer

Sunday night's Cleveland Orchestra concert at Blossom Music Center featured two firsts of significance.
Slovak conductor Juraj Valcuha made his Cleveland Orchestra debut with music of Strauss, Korngold and Rota; and the Rota piece, a Suite for Fellini's "La Strada," was given its first performance by the Cleveland Orchestra.
Rota's suite was the evening's pleasant surprise. While Rota is a well-known entity thanks to his indefatigable work scoring the motion pictures of Federico Fellini, the opportunity to hear his music free of the motion picture soundtrack was rewarding for the musical personality it revealed.
The other items on the program were more familiar: "Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks" and a Suite from "Der Rosenkavalier" by Strauss, and the luminescent Violin Concerto in D by Korngold.
For the concerto, violinist Stefan Jackiw returned to Northeast Ohio, following his Cleveland Orchestra debut in 2008. Jackiw is still a young artist, brimming with technical ability and youthful passion. His tone ranges wide, from rich and throaty in the lower reaches of his instrument to brilliant and pitch-perfect in the violin's highest range.
Jackiw's reading of Korngold's work, written over the course of the early 1940s for Bronislaw Huberman but premiered by Jascha Heifetz, was perfect. His prodigious technique was more than a match for the monumental challenges that Korngold set in every bar, and his understanding of Korngold's bittersweet emotionality, was everything one could have asked for.