Estonian National Symphony
Morley Safer described Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg as "Pete Rose with a fiddle," so Narek Hakhnezaryan, 2011 winner of the Tchaikovsky Competition, could be called the Serena Williams of the cello: focused, passionate and brilliant.
His solos were standouts at the Estonian National Symphony concert held on Nov. 2 at Stanford University’s gorgeous, year-old Bing Concert Hall, which offers clean acoustics in a 360-degree "vineyard" seating arrangement. Center-section seating is the same level as the stage, providing intimacy and excellent sightlines, which were also enhanced by the houselights remaining on during the performance.
The orchestra, under the spirited direction of highly respected Estonian maestro Neeme Järvi, opened with fellow countryman Arvo Pärt’s bittersweet "Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten." The six-minute, secular composition featured only strings and a single funereal chime, using Pärt’s characteristic minimalism and tintinnabulation, which applies various chord inversions, here on the descending A minor scale.
Järvi framed the piece with appropriate silence, letting the final bell reverberations decay before lowering his baton. Pärt never met the then-recently-deceased English composer, but found "unusual purity" in his work, and my seatmate remarked that this piece "sounds like the music made by the Northern Lights."
Mentored by Mstislav Rostropovich, 25-year-old Armenian Hakhnezaryan, along with the woodwinds and brass instruments, joined the orchestra for Dvořák’s "Cello Concerto in B Minor, op. 104." (The 76-year-old Järvi, who has a discography of almost 500 recordings, had to shake his head "not yet" when a smattering of applause erupted between the second movement, Adagio ma non troppo, and the third, Allegro moderato.)
Following his powerful work during the Dvořák, Hakhnezaryan energetically soloed on Italian composer Giovanni Sollima’s "Lamentatio," a 1998 post-minimalist tour-de-force evocative of European folk music, complete with chanting.
After intermission, the orchestra returned to perform the three movements of Sibelius’s "Symphony No. 5 in E-flat Major, op. 82." Järvi then offered two additional pieces by the Finnish composer for encores: "Valse Triste" ("sad waltz," composed for a 1903 play) and "Andante Festivo," a single movement composition scored in 1922.
This symphony, Eesti Riiklik Sümfooniaorkester, began as a radio orchestra in 1926, is housed in the 100-year old Estonia Concert Hall, and features prominent principal and renowned guest conductors. This U.S. tour started on Oct. 28 and will run through Nov. 18, with remaining concerts in Atlanta, and various venues in New York and Florida. For information, visit www.erso.ee/?concert=enso-on-concert-tour-in-the-united-states&lang=en
Upcoming Stanford Live events include "Festival Jérôme Bel: The Show Must Go On," a series of concerts featuring the choreographers’ pieces; "Linked Verse," a concerto for cello, Japanese shō (reed instrument) and spatialized sound recordings; plus the holiday concerts of "A Chanticleer Christmas" and the San Francisco Boys Chorus Family Concert.
The Estonian National Symphony performed on Nov. 2 at Stanford University’s Bing Concert Hall, 365 Lasuen Street, Standford, CA. For information and tickets to upcoming Stanford Live events, call 650-724-2464 or visit http://live.stanford.edu/