Cleveland Orchestra revels in Brahms, sheds welcome light on rarely-heard symphony
Armenian violinist Sergey Khachatryan possessed everything the famous work demands, and more. Beyond technique in spades, he wielded a concentrated, forceful tone and exceptional degrees of clarity and tenderness at soft and high extremes. Not in some time has this listener encountered such a focused, passionate account of the Adagio.
He also proved an exceptionally good listener, the opposite of a detached, combative force. Rather than push against Hrusa's somewhat leaden pace in the first movement, Khachatryan adapted himself to it perfectly, and in the spirited finale, he not only turned in a bold, decisive performance. He also made himself a part of the ensemble.
By way of an encore, Khachatryan offered a rare treat: "Apricot Tree," an elegant, diaphanous folk tune adapted by the Armenian priest known as Komitas. True spring weather might have provided better context, but the music itself could not have asked for a finer interpreter.