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Music Review : Violinist Rachlin Returns to Pavilion


Breaking violin strings is not always a critical matter--except during a public performance. Young Julian Rachlin broke a string Thursday night in the middle of a performance--to be precise, in the finale of Prokofiev's First Violin Concerto, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic behind him and a Dorothy Chandler Pavilion audience in front of him.

Did he tear his abundant 20-year-old hair? Did he suffer a breakdown? Not at all.

As smoothly as if he had rehearsed his actions, the Lithuanian-born, Vienna-trained Rachlin waited for the next tutti passage, then took two steps to his right, exchanged instruments with guest concertmaster Martin Chalifour and continued to play, with the elegance of a winning racehorse coming into the final stretch. No sweat.

Admirably, Rachlin's surrounding performance of Prokofiev's cherishable, sometimes neglected work went along as effortlessly as his violin exchange. The prodigious soloist delivered all the myriad moods, lyrical heights and mechanical complexities of the piece in an impassioned flow. Forget that he was born in 1974; whatever his age, Rachlin is the real thing: a virtuoso with heart and a champion's bearing.

Under Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Philharmonic produced for him a collaboration of affection and stylishness.

The orchestra concluded the evening with a solid and serious reading of Sibelius' never-fail Fifth Symphony, one characterized more often by a heavy directness and massive orchestral choralism than by cool transparency and lightened textures. Nevertheless, the large climaxes had to impress.

At the beginning, Salonen & Co. repeated (from 11 months ago) Schoenberg's Five Pieces, Opus 16, re-achieving the spidery delicacy, handsome detailing and emotional pungency one now expects from these exposed challenges, but which are not necessarily built into them.

(Note: The 33-year-old Montreal-born violinist Martin Chalifour, at present acting concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra, is serving as Philharmonic concertmaster this week and next.)

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