The National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) opened the evening with Czech composer Bedrich Smetana’s “Vitava” (“The Moldau”) from Ma Vlast (My Country). The piece, which celebrates one of Bohemia’s great rivers, is the second in a collection of six symphonic works, and the most frequently performed of the set. Under the baton of conductor Lidya Yankovskaya, the NSO brought the river to life, taking the audience on a musical journey through meadows and woods, past a farmer’s wedding, and along the shores of palaces and ancient ruins, before finally vanishing into the distance.
…Shaham’s virtuosity was breathtaking.
Following the NSO’s sensitive rendering of the Smetana, violinist Gil Shaham took the stage to deliver a magnificent performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35. Well-known as a devilishly difficult piece, Shaham’s virtuosity was breathtaking. He brought forth feats of technical brilliance—lightning-fast runs, and flawless double-stop passages—together with an astonishing musicality, effortlessly conjuring the profoundly moving melodies that have made the concerto an audience favorite for more than a century.
The second half of the evening featured the work of another prolific Czech composer, Antonin Dvorak’s much-loved Symphony No.9, “From the New World.” The popular symphony premiered in New York City in 1893, and in 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong took a recording of the piece with him on the Apollo 11 Mission to the moon. Since then, the New World Symphony has been a staple of orchestral literature. Notable performances from the trumpets, horns, flutes, and oboes captured the work’s majestic simplicity.
A Friday evening thunderstorm did not dampen the audience’s enthusiasm. Veteran Wolf Trap patrons arrived prepared for the weather with rain jackets, umbrellas, and plastic lawn coverings, but all were delighted when the orchestra assembled onstage and, as if on cue, the rain was replaced by a cool breeze and serene evening sky. Don’t let the summer pass you by without a visit to America’s favorite, performing arts park.
Running time: Approximately two hours with one 15-minute intermission.
“The National Symphony Orchestra with Gil Shaham, Violinist’ was performed on Friday, August 5, 2022, in the Filene Center at Wolf Trap, 1551 Trap Road, Vienna, VA 22182. For information about upcoming performances at Wolf Trap, click here.