Aspen Music Festival review: Gypsy fun after Brahms enlivens the weekend

David Robertson, Stefan Jackiw
The Aspen Times

Ravel's famous orchestral tone poem "La Valse" represented the season's theme in Sunday's Aspen Festival Orchestra program. Conductor David Robertson emphasized its abrasive edges from the start, rather than letting things well up smoothly before veering off into violence. The result was intense and gripping.

Perhaps he was trying to bookend the program with something as lapel-grabbing as the opener, Andrew Norman's "Play: Level 1," which opens with a sonic assault and only lets up a bit by the finish. Or maybe balance the sweetness and charm of the Duo-Concertino by Richard Strauss that opened the second half. Clarinetist Joaquin Valdepeñas and bassoonist Per Hannevold, principals in the orchestra for years, made an utterly captivating duo.
But the apex of the afternoon was Stefan Jackiw's superbly articulated, fearlessly Romantic and sleek work on Korngold's heart-on-sleeve Violin Concerto. Robertson coaxed vital backing from the orchestra, whether articulating the tunes from Korngold's films or supporting the violinist gracefully as he tackled the challenging gestures in the score. Jackiw outdid himself with a stately, regal and deft encore, the Largo from Bach's Unaccompanied Sonata No. 3.