I don’t usually write about the Lubbock Symphony as I am too close to the orchestra to be objective, but this show was too good to pass without comment. Joshua Bell was the soloist in the opening the LSO’s 2016-17 season; its 70th. He played the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in the second half of the program. The concert took place on Monday evening September 12 before a capacity audience.
Maestro David Cho led the orchestra in Verdi’s overture to La Forza Del Destino followed by the prelude to Act 1 of La Traviata. He then conducted four excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and Capriccio Italien. The LSO has been an outstanding ensemble for years, but Cho’s leadership has kept it on the uptick. The Verdi overture makes great demands on the strings. Not too many years ago it might have given them some difficulty, but Monday they handled the piece with aplomb. The same was true of the two Tchaikovsky selections. Cho is a dynamic leader who has an obvious rapport with his band. He get a crisp and lush sound out of them. Quite simply, they were in marvelous form. This is now an orchestra that would stand out in any venue.
Bell plays the violin like Usain Bolt runs the 200 meter sprint. His whole body is involved and the result is spectacular. Bell played his Gibson ex Huberman Stradivarius at breakneck speed as would be expected of a musical Bolt. His technical proficiency is complete – runs, trills, stops, are seemingly effortless yet his cantabile is smooth and sensitive. The audience reacted with appropriate enthusiasm. This violin concerto could not be played with more verve and beauty than the performance that Bell delivered. The audience responded with more enthusiasm than I have previously seen in 31 years of attending LSO performances.
The LSO is clearly Lubbock’s premiere arts organization. This concert reinforced this position. Many in the audience were likely hearing the orchestra for the first time. I suspect they’ll be back.
The following day I was on the same plane out of Lubbock as was Bell. He was in the row just behind me. A flight attendant moved his Strad from one compartment to another without first asking him. Not surprisingly, Bell was not happy and let the hapless attendant know of his displeasure, though he managed to remain civil, a feat considering the circumstance.