Florida Orchestra concertmaster Jeffrey Multer gave a stunning performance Friday of one of the most interesting, as well as notoriously difficult, pieces in the violin repertoire: Béla Bartók's Concerto No. 2 for Violin and Orchestra.
Composed in 1937-1938, Bartók's second violin concerto is heavily influenced by the "verbunkos" style that was so popular during the 18th century in Hungary. The alternation between slow, lyrical and fast virtuosic passages is characteristic of this Gypsy-infused genre.
Multer demonstrated both with passion and skill.
From the moment the violin enters after the simple, repeated chords struck by the harp, the concerto gives away its folk influence. Especially in the first movement, we hear the sudden shifts from slow to fast, with extremely difficult runs coming out of nowhere, all played by Multer with ease.
The orchestra often enthusiastically punctuates the violinist's phrases and the low brass was exceptional during these sections.
The abundant trombone slides are perhaps cliché to our modern ears, but it's during works like this that we are reminded why that technique became overused in the first place.
The Brahms that followed — Symphony No. 2 in D major — is always refreshing to hear, and the orchestra's performance was equally stimulating. Brahms' symphony is just as emotional as Bartók's concerto but in a completely different vein. Instead of the angst that Bartók was expressing due to the oppressive nature of prewar Hungary, Brahms gives us the lovely melodies that were inspired by his retreat to a village in the Carinthian hills of southern Austria.
Guest conductor Joana Carneiro was extremely animated and dramatic throughout the concert, with perhaps the exception of the Bartók. Any more energy from the podium might have taken away from Multer's performance.
But for the duration of the Brahms, it was no holds barred from Carneiro.