Wednesday night was another CSO Afterwork Masterworks concert (last one of the series actually) featuring violinist Gil Shaham in the Bartok Violin Concerto No. 2 under the baton of renowned Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki as well as Mälkki leading the CSO in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade.
Shaham was fantastic in his performance of the Bartok – the rich sound from his Stradivarius, with his control and dynamic technique, paired excellently with the CSO’s accompaniment. You could tell that he truly loves performing – his beaming enthusiasm was always present on stage!
Sheherazade closed the evening and what a way to conclude the Afterwork Masterwork series! Each of the soloists who played, from concertmaster Robert Chen to principal clarinet Stephen Williamson to principal cello John Sharp (and many more) were absolutely incredible, bringing a masterful sense of drama, tone, and storytelling to the performance. Mälkki is obviously well-acquainted with this Russian piece and showed her artistry and command as she led the CSO from the podium. Her conducting style was very reminiscent of Salonen’s (who I saw in February at the previous Afterwork Masterwork concert), considering they both studied at the Sibelius Academy in Finland. She’s a huge inspiration in the world of classical music – she’s the first woman to conduct an opera at La Scala!
After the concert, there was a fun Q&A session with Mälkki and Shaham. Mälkki talked about how her experience as a cellist translates into her job as a conductor now, as well as the process of creating the program for this week. Shaham went over his relationship with the Bartok, as well as his opinions on the brilliant Sheherazade that we all just heard. There were some upset patrons in the audience, including one who asked why the administration was cutting the Afterwork Masterwork series, which is understandable because the opportunity to interact with the artists afterwards is a pretty cool experience. I got to talk to Shaham about what I was studying at UChicago, and he was super excited that I was studying science and engineering, but still interested in music – his brother actually heads a molecular biology lab, but has the time to play piano in a local ensemble!
Next week at CSO: Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet conducted by Maestro Muti.