Violin fanciers in Guilford College‘s Dana Auditorium eagerly anticipated the season opening concert of the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra. Music director Dmitry Sitkovetsky‘s imaginative and intriguing program featured the maestro himself, the concertmaster, and two guest soloists in two works featuring all four players while showcasing each guest in delightful, less frequently programed solo concertos.

The concert opened with Concerto in B minor, RV.580 (Op. 3, No. 10), for four violins, cello, strings, and continuo, by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741). The standard three movements of this lively concerto grosso are Allegro, Largo-Largetto, and Allegro. The orchestral strings were slightly reduced by a stand from each section. The small harpsichord was played by Nancy Johnston.

The concertino soloists were arranged Sitkovetsky, Mayuko Kamio,* concertmaster Marjorie Bagley, and Risa Hokamura.** Violin fireworks and subtleties abounded as parts were paired and juxtaposed. Intonation was immaculate, tone was richly satisfying, and dynamics were wide ranging and refined. The short celllo solo was played superbly by principal Alexander Ezerman. The continuo, consisting of harpsichord and cellist Jennifer Johnson, were readily heard as they supported the four principal soloists as they took solo turns with the orchestra strings at rest.

The Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor, Op. 61, by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921), came next. It was composed in 1880 for the Spanish violin virtuoso Pablo de Sarasate who gave the premiere on January 2, 1881. Its three movements are: Allegro non troppo, Andantino quasi allegretto, and Molto moderato e maestoso.

Young Hokamura played the socks off the exquisite Saint-Saëns! There was no lack of power in her playing bravura openings of the first and last movements. What hushed poetry she brought to the middle slow movement, which featured the gorgeous oboe of Mary Barret and Kelly Burke‘s subtle clarinet underpinning of Hokamura’s floated pianissimo ending! The lively finale received a spirited interpretation. Sitkovetsky provided superbly balanced orchestral support.

Sarasate commissioned the work that came after intermission, Symphonie espagnole, Op. 21 (1874), by Edouard Lalo (1823-92). It was most gratifying that the full five-movement version was given. The movements are: Allegro non troppo, Scherzando. Allegro molto, Intermezzo. Allegretto non troppo, and Rondo. Allegro.

Kamio brought jaw dropping virtuosity to the effervescent Lalo. Flawless intonation and attacks were paired with gorgeous, warm tone, and refined control of dynamics. The infectious, seductive rhythms came across beautifully. There were plenty of trills, thrills, and hair-raising multiple stops. There was haunting poetry throughout the slow movement. The balance between soloist and orchestra was ideal, with Sitkovetsky securing a wide palette of strings’ pizzicatos.

Sitkovetsky the transcriber was on display in his arrangement of Sarasate’s “Navarra Fantasy” for four violins and orchestra, which recevied its premiere. His re-scoring made full use of the whole orchestra with percussion (tambourine, castanets), winds, and a rich variety of plucked orchestral strings. It was delightful to see and hear the rhythmic theme was shared and tossed about by the four soloists. What gorgeous highs played close to the bridge! There trills and multiple stops a plenty. It was a great fun piece to cap a memorable concert.

This program will be repeated on Sept. 21.

The solo artists will also participate in a chamber music program at UNCG on Sept. 20. For details of that, click here.

*Mayuko Kamio won the 2007 International Tchaikovsky Competition and plays a 1727 Stradivarius. ** Eighteen-year old Risa Hokamura is a student of Kamio and was first prize winner of the 2018 Young Artists International Auditions which her teacher won in 2000.

(Updated 9/21/19.)