If violinist Augustin Hadelich ever wonders if he has friends, all he has to do is return to Madison, which the 29-year-old does with some frequency.
His first concert here in 2009 was with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. He returned in 2012 to play with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, and returned to the MSO this year to play in a performance of Edouard Lalo's Symphony Espagnole for Violin and Orchestra.
It is a beautiful piece that makes full use of Hadelich's considerable talents. He hadn't even finished his initial bow when most of the audience rose to its feet cheering.
For those who don't know his story, Hadelich was severely burned when he was 15 years old and had to stop playing the violin for a year. The fire presented a pretty formidable obstacle for a potential concert musician; Hadelich, obviously, rose to the challenge. He now plays with virtually every major orchestra in the world and wins rave reviews wherever he goes.
He plays a Stradivarius made in 1723.
I know it's stupid to say it still sounds good -- but, really, how many things built nearly 300 years ago are now used as everyday tools of a trade?
Unfortunately, the audience was nowhere near a sell-out. There were empty seats -- and one almost empty row -- scattered throughout Overture Hall's main-floor section Friday night. And that's too bad, because the weekend concert was excellent.
It began with a six-minute contemporary piece, Aaron Jay Kernis' "Too Hot Toccata," which, in a short time, introduces every section of the orchestra and includes a honky-tonk piano.
It ended with a 57-minute-long Symphony No. 2 in E Minor by Sergei Rachmaninoff, which was so engaging it seemed half that long.