Avi Avital's brilliant debut highlights lively, engaging CSO program

06.08.18
Avi Avital
Chicago Tribune

By John von Rhein

The chemistry among Antonini, Avital and the 14-member group of strings and continuo generated maximum wattage in Vivaldi’s Mandolin Concerto in C (RV 425) and an arrangement (presumably Avital’s own) of Bach’s D-Minor keyboard concerto (BWV 1052), for mandolin and orchestra. Vivaldi’s trademark cascading runs and fluttering trills sat beautifully beneath Avital’s fleet fingers, while his pleasantly twangy mandolin emerged in judicious balance again the lithe, animated ensemble.

This listener would not trade Bach’s keyboard original for this mandolin transcription, but it makes a satisfying alternative and went down with tremendous vitality and spontaneity on Thursday. Avital’s digital dexterity drew a close link with the work’s probable original guise as a violin concerto.

A clamorous standing O was the result, which the Israeli virtuoso acknowledged offering one of his own solo pieces as an encore — “Prelude + Bucimis,” which began as a quiet little folk song before morphing into a mandolin version of a pounding, heavy-metal jam.

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