The Philadelphia Orchestra Vladimir Jurowski, conductor
Verizon Hall, Feb 19 Conductor Vladimir Jurowski was on the short list of maestro candidates for the Philadelphia Orchestra and his guest appearances in the last few years have installed his imprint. You instantly notice his recalibrated strings; there is something about Russian conductors’ deep bowing and string gradations that engulf a hall. Those strings and other Jurowski accents were on dazzling display in a rousing program of Wagner, Beethoven and Prokofiev. Jurowski’s style isn’t physically flashy, keeping most of his movement in the upper body, but the musical passion nonetheless flows starting with the tempered power in Wagner’s “Parsifal,” so airborne in the approach and serene on the surface, and then you are bathed in the sonic power of it. This is symphonic foreshadowing of the thunder yet to come. Beethoven’s Violin Concerto is a marathon of virtuosic playing, but there must be something magical in performance to render the full power of the work and whatever this is, violinist Lisa Batiashvili conjured it. She had palpable synergy with the orchestra throughout and fired those famous devilish cadenzas with authority. She chose Alfred Schnittke famously (and controversially) rewrites. The section almost plays like a classical abstract jazz solo, and on its own terms, musically fascinating. No one knows what Beethoven would have felt about its place in his work, but forgetting that, Batiashvili’s version was breathtaking. Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 6 was written in 1945, reflecting a period of illness and artistic stress, but also musical experimentation after his triumphantly received fifth symphony. The composer had been working under Soviet artistic sanctions of his work, but his nationalistic film scores to “Alexander Nevsky,” “Ivan the Terrible” are bursting with freethinking subtext that survived unflagged. And the sixth has similar sub-streams, brought forth passionately by Jurowski. He builds Prokofiev’s epochal architecture by not missing one subtlety. There is such a heart-pounding interplay between the strings, horns and percussion in the work. Jennifer Montone’s French horn so stoically heralded as the rest of the horns came through a storm. The shattering crescendo in the vivace, compared to the composer’s ballet score of “Romeo and Juliet,” is an orchestral A-bomb, Jurowski letting loose Prokofiev’s concussive primal scream.