Young violinist wows at Mountains concert

Dmitri Berlinsky takes a cue from conductor Guillermo Figueroa during his solo Sunday on Mendelssohn’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in E minor. Enlarge photo

Paul Boyer/Courtesy of Music in the Mountains

Dmitri Berlinsky takes a cue from conductor Guillermo Figueroa during his solo Sunday on Mendelssohn’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in E minor.

There’s no way to sugarcoat the disappointment that neither violinist Vadim Gluzman nor Philippe Quint are playing at this season’s Music in the Mountains. But Dmitri Berlinsky, who played at Sunday’s concert, made the disappointment disappear.

The youngest winner ever of the Paganini International Violin Competition in Genoa, Italy, he drew some of the sweetest sounds ever heard on a violin from his 1759 Carlos Ferdinand Landolfi. Berlinsky, one of a handful of artists who has been allowed to perform on Nicolo Paganini’s own Guarneri del Gesù violin, performed Felix Mendelssohn’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in E minor, Op. 64.

Some violinists have great technique, others great musicality. Berlinsky is one of a handful who possesses both. Perhaps the red lining peeking out from his black shirt is a metaphor for Berlinsky as musician, whose entire demeanor changed as he became one with the music.

The Mendelssohn was a last-minute substitution for the originally programmed Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 1 in D, Op. 19.

It’s rare for an orchestra’s librarian to receive a “shout-out,” but Katie Smith scrambled to get the scores for the Mendelssohn, arranging loans from the San Juan Symphony and Fort Lewis College.

Musical Director and Conductor Guillermo Figueroa clearly loves both Ludwig van Beethoven and his Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 36, which constituted the first half of the concert. Figueroa spoke at length about Beethoven’s despair at losing his hearing, which he wrote about in his Heilingenstadt Testament, a letter to his brothers:

“How could I possibly admit an infirmity in the one sense which ought to be more perfect in me than in other people, a sense I once possessed in the highest perfection?”

The letter is particularly significant because at the same time he was writing it, he was composing his second symphony, a singularly beautiful piece of music. Though not as well-known as his fifth and ninth symphonies, at the time it was debuted, critics saw it as a foretelling of a revolutionary career.

The Music in the Mountains orchestra did it justice, with Figueroa conducting every note with exquisite care. Audience members were overheard using words such as “breathtaking,” “exquisite” and “unforgettable.”

The concert ended with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol, Op. 34. The capriccio’s five movements are composed around five Spanish themes, with opportunities for several of the orchestra’s first chairs to showcase their talent.

Rimsky-Korsakov actually dedicated the piece to the orchestra that premiered it, and it’s clear the piece is as much fun for them to play as it is for the audience to hear.

Now, anticipation is high to see what wonders violinist Ida Kavafian will bring to the stage Sunday at the Community Concert Hall.