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Solo violinist Oscar Shumsky astonishes audience


Conducted by Benjamin Zander.

Oscar Shumsky, violin soloist.

Jordan Hall, Saturday, March 3, and

Sanders Theatre, Sunday, March 4.



SOLO VIOLINIST OSCAR SHUMSKY astonished the audience at last Saturday night's Boston Philharmonic concert with two preludes -- from the Suites in G minor and E major -- that didn't sound as if they were coming from any sort of mechanical contraption at all. Shumsky produced pure music, sharply-defined, but flowing effortlessly and gloriously.

Shumsky had previously played the Elgar Violin Concerto in B minor, Op. 61, with an epic playing style that stressed both the exploration of profundity and the illumination of detail. There was a passionate build-up of tension in the Allegro. In the Andante, Shumsky's lyrical playing was quite concentrated, but in league with the velveteen accompaniment of Zander's Philharmonic, the effect was one of repose as well as color.

Zander maintained a tight control of the orchestra, which kept a sympathetic relationship with the soloist throughout, producing sounds of openness and breadth.

The concert had begun with Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis; it was richly played and very atmospheric, if slightly sluggish in tempo at times.

It then continued with Britten's Four Sea Interludes and Passacaglia from Peter Grimes. The Philharmonic projected Britten's strong imagery powerfully. Dawn, the first of the Interludes, opened darkly and mysteriously, heavy with early-morning dew. The brass took on majestic dimensions, with exciting rhythmic flows emanating from the strings and building into powerful waves of sound.

The Storm was tempestuous, of firecracker excitement and brilliantly controlled; the Passacaglia took the orchestra to frenetic heights of passion, as the onset of Grimes' madness is described in violent, but also colorful terms.