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Martinson Duo Enlivened LSO’s Long Night


Christina Day Martinson
Christina Day Martinson

The Martinson violin duo sparkled in Bach’s Double Concerto and Haldan Martinson soared on Berg’s Concerto, but in neither work did Ronald Feldman and his Longwood Symphony Orchestra dispense quite enough of the same stuff. Brahms’s Third Symphony fared better with the band, the strings leading the way. But, all in all, time moved slowly at Jordan Hall. Saturday evening’s program did not even begin until a quarter past eight, the result of a late start followed by three speakers addressing the orchestra’s commitment to healing the community through music. Why not do this as a pre-concert address?

With the music-making once underway, Christina Day Martinson and Haldan Martinson showed their superb ways both with “modern” violins and Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor. Focusing in on their interaction was the highlight of the night. Synced and sparkling they were. The Vivace was over before I knew it. The Largo ma non tanto drifted into divinely open spaces, the calls and answers between the Martinsons made for a heavenly match. Their Allegro zipped with intimate, if not intense interplay.

Conductor-less, the reduced string contingent stood behind the soloists, doing their very best to come up to those energy levels radiated by the Martinsons. Unfortunately, detecting any real interplay between the Longwood strings and the Martinsons posed a difficult challenge for this listener. The small orchestra’s stoutness in the second movement and its languor-leaning in the Allegro surprised. A little more sound from the harpsichord seemed in order.

Setting up for the Berg concerto took a quite a good deal of time with the many stands and chairs that are required for a large orchestra. Why in the name of efficiency Feldman could not have placed his introductory remarks to the concerto during this time puzzles. More so, though, his remarks tended to be off the mark. His concept of Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto disappointed. Years ago, students at the University of Massachusetts Boston heard directly from the man who encouraged Berg to complete the work as he lay dying. Louis Krasner would then go on to premiere the concerto that is like none other, one that moves into deeper realms of the heart and mind.

Haldan Martinson appeared to do what he could with his part. However, the LSO was simply not up to the intricacies inhabiting the textures or the depths of the psychological and spiritual life of the work. Rather, this Berg came across as mere instrumental display. Martinson found some dreaming in those Brahmsian lullaby-like phrases. As for the orchestra, the heavenly nods from Berg to Bach melded unnoticed into the symphonic rhetoric. The otherwise touching chorale quotes of Es ist genug (It is enough) never got off the ground. Overall, this iteration moved like a rudderless ship.

Haldan Martinson (Tom Kates photo)
Haldan Martinson (Tom Kates photo)

Then it was 9:55 before Feldman started up the Brahms. For me, this is not the first time where music-making is barely given more time than all the waiting and talking.

The Longwood Symphony Orchestra felt at home with the master’s third; the more it progressed, the better it blended. A bright brass led blast opened the Allegro con brio. Despite the winds sounding top heavy, the strings felt secure The Andante was pastoral enough if somewhat rhythmically square. The melancholy Poco allegretto missed sighing with conviction. A fairly darkened orchestra exploded into a real striving, but it was the shift to the major key and the brief but joyous theme in the concluding movement that could have been the moment.

David Patterson, Professor of Music and former Chairman of the Performing Arts Department at UMass Boston, was recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Award and the Chancellor’s Distinction in Teaching Award. He studied with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen in Paris and holds a PhD from Harvard University. He is the author of 20 Little Piano Pieces from Around the World (G. Schirmer).

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