TAMPA — Karen Gomyo is not yet a huge star, nor would you necessarily expect her — a young Canadian violinist — to be a distinctive interpreter of Shostakovich. But I cannot imagine the Russian composer's Violin Concerto No. 1 being played any more sensationally than Gomyo did Friday night in Ferguson Hall of Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.
From the keening beauty of the opening Nocturne through the wild dance of the second movement, the spiritual Passacaglia, the remarkable large-scale cadenza and the fiendishly difficult finale, this was a performance for the ages.
Despite her girlish appearance, Gomyo, 27, brought a commanding sense of authority and stage presence to the concerto. She had a good partner on the podium in music director Stefan Sanderling, who has long, deep experience in conducting Shostakovich.
Because Gomyo's playing was so mesmerizing, it wasn't until the second movement that the lack of trumpets and trombones in the instrumentation registered on me. This is very unusual for Shostakovich, and the woodwind playing was outstanding, as in the bassoon that joined in counterpoint with the soloist at times. As an encore, Gomyo dashed off a dazzling Bach Prelude.
Sanderling and the orchestra wasted an opportunity to spotlight a living composer by beginning the concert with The Fixed Desire of the Human Heart by Samuel Adler, a retired professor at the Eastman School of Music. The somber, mildly atonal piece was well crafted, but it didn't have much to say and drew a tepid response from the audience.
Brahms' Third Symphony can sometimes seem a bit reticent and uncertain, but Sanderling would have none of that. He led a headlong performance that slowed only for the lilting third-movement waltz.
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Gomyo plays a famous violin, the 1703 Stradivarius known as "Ex Foulis." If you're curious about how she takes care of such a priceless instrument, see an interview with her on our new arts blog, Critics Circle, at blogs.tampabay.com/arts.
John Fleming can be reached at fleming@sptimes or (727) 893-8716.