Air conditioner on low. Phone off. Cat amused to exhaustion. Pre-streaming precautions for uninterrupted listening in the Age of “Rona”. Though the living room couch cannot compensate for one of Tanglewood’s venues nor a summer day in the Berkshires, it creates it own unique feeling of focus and intimacy – abetted by discreet camera work and close miking – congenial to Augustin Hadelich and Orion Weiss’s program of three works for violin and piano. Except for the Adams, Hadelich played from memory, while Weiss had a tablet on the music rack throughout.

Augustin Hadelich and Orion Weiss © Tanglewood Festival
Augustin Hadelich and Orion Weiss
© Tanglewood Festival

Hadelich now plays the Guarneri “Le Duc”, once Henryk Szering’s instrument, and, as of this year, on permanent loan to him. The full bodied, mellow tone of its lower register added a distinct autumnal hue to the opening movement of Debussy’s final work, the Violin Sonata in G minor, and contrast to the piano’s brighter, fluvial passages. Moments of repose were few and brief. Each movement pressed on in a breathless montage of incidents, colors, variations, and tempi. Hadelich exploited the brilliance of his instrument’s upper reaches to imbue the frequent soft passages and extended pianissimos with ethereal light. He and Weiss created a needlepoint whimsy for the  brilliant second movement and its rapid ornamentation. In such a context, the intrusion of the cakewalk was perfectly plausible. The final movement began with a brief, soulful echo of the first, then scampered to an antic finish, as if Debussy suddenly dropped everything, remembering he was late for a more appealing rendezvous. It was easy to imagine how much more Hadelich will mine from Debussy’s crowded riot of invention and mood once he fully plumbs the possibilities of his new instrument.

Brahms’s Second Violin Sonata, with melodies borrowed from his songs, allowed Hadelich and Weiss to indulge a variety of voices, balancing lyricism and virtuosity in an instrumental Liederabend of solos and duets. The music glowed with the warmth and contentment of a day in the country, the antithesis to both Debussy’s and Adams’s sense of urban helter-skelter. 

To film buffs, Road Movies would likely bring Bing Crosby and Bob Hope to mind. Though the allusion is unintentional, John Adams’s brief, 1995 piece of the same name does share the madcap energy of those movies as we hear the rush of traffic, the hum of wheels on pavement, and snippets seeming to approximate the swipe of a windshield wiper and the click of old directional signals. The first movement echoed the repetitive, unyielding pulse of rush hour traffic; the second was worthy of a film noir’s underscoring for a city streetscape just before dawn, forlorn save for the occasional cab, and the third was a wild, white-knuckle car chase of virtuosic playing including some challenging cross-hand passages for the pianist.

Keep an eye on this collaboration. It bodes well for whatever they decide to perform.


This performance was reviewed from the video live stream.

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