Review: Salerno-Sonnenberg lights it up with San Antonio Symphony

Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg

By David Hendricks

Violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg has been a celebrity soloist touring the world since the 1980s, but she amply demonstrated in San Antonio on Friday night she is more determined than ever to put on a good show.

Salerno-Sonnenberg has slowed over the decades in one sense, easing more into conducting and teaching, while also running her own recording label. She recently stepped down as artistic director of San Francisco’s New Century Chamber Orchestra. And the nearly lifelong New Yorker recently resettled in New Orleans to teach at Loyola University.

But Friday night with the San Antonio Symphony at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in front of an audience of about 1,200 people, Salerno-Sonnenberg was on fire, pulling double duty as violin soloist and conductor.

First up was Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” in a rendition far from the elevator background music most people hear. Salerno-Sonnenberg was the soloist and orchestra leader, performing in her trademark style, arching her back, swaying from her hips and kicking up her heels.

But most impressive was the way she fashioned the four concertos from the 22 musicians on stage with her, including harpsichordist Suzanne Purtee.

Salerno-Sonnenberg ordered a rustic sound, plus wide swings in volume and rhythms to help the audience visualize the peasant society portrayed by the Venetian composer.

Read the full review.