Seven years and two months after her local debut--a recital at Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena--Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg finally made her first appearance with the Los Angeles Philharmonic on Thursday night in Hollywood Bowl.
In that period, the prize-winning, Italian-born violinist, now 27, has played here a number of times: more than once with Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, with the Pasadena Symphony, and in a special benefit for USC held at the Wiltern Theatre. And she has been seen frequently on television, a medium in which her trend-setting personal style and ebullient personality seem to thrive.
This belated debut, then, might have seemed anti-climactic. It wasn't. With the solid support of the Philharmonic and conductor Daniel Lewis, Salerno-Sonnenberg's performance of Max Bruch's ubiquitous G-minor Concerto emerged both impassioned and controlled.
Indeed, it might have seemed to some--those few who may remember the late Jascha Heifetz's incandescent performance of the same concerto, on this stage in August, 1967--too controlled, even a bit distanced from the emotional core of the piece.
That is a matter of taste; performances of Romantic works do not have to be slovenly to be effective. What is undeniable is Salerno-Sonnenberg's technical sovereignty and musical sweep, her already earned place among the high achievers on her instrument. In that arena, this proved a memorable performance.
Lewis and the orchestra surrounded it with strong and stalwart readings of Berlioz's "Corsaire" Overture and Beethoven's Third Symphony. In the Overture, as well as in the violin concerto, the hum made by a steady stream of passing aircraft reminded Bowl regulars that on any given night the skies above the amphitheater belong to a wider constituency.
Then, for no apparent reason, no further aerial passers-by despoiled the pristine powers of Beethoven's "Eroica." From the mellow-sounding orchestra, Lewis drew a purposeful, balanced, structurally solid and highly detailed performance, one as stylish as it was communicative.