Violinist Yu a wow with Charlotte SymphonyMay 2, 2016
To non-English conductors, Ralph Vaughan Williams often looks like trouble. His nine symphonies are the most important set in 400 years of English music. Yet Claudio Abbado, Leonard Bernstein, Herbert von Karajan and George Solti probably the four most prolific conductors of my lifetime recorded just one Vaughan Williams symphony among them (Bernstein, No. 4).
So Charlotte's lucky to have a British-born maestro in Christopher Warren-Green. He's the ideal guide to "A London Symphony," Ralph Vaughan Williams' second: He knows the harp solo represents the chimes of Westminster, another portion evokes Bloomsbury Square on a November afternoon, while yet another puts you on the Thames embankment at night.
He spoke eloquently about that symphony the first he ever played, he said, in his days as a violinist Friday night at Belk Theater. He dedicated it to Hugh McColl, who had just won the 2015-16 Spirit of the Symphony Award for lifetime contributions, and McColl's wife, Jane. The orchestra then followed Warren-Green through the long symphony with vivid coloring and incisive playing that revealed the essence of this discursive piece.
Yu matches a velvety tone to a contemplative style rare in a musician of 27. Many soloists use this concerto to throw off sparks; Yu was determined to place it among the greats, along the Brahms-Beethoven axis, and played with meditative intensity. That feeling carried over into his encore, a movement from Bach's Sonata No. 1 during which neither he nor the audience seemed to draw breath.