Wineke: Sara Chang rocks the symphony

The Madison Symphony Orchestra’s weekend concert features an all-Scandinavian program, one that might be expected to be both somewhat tense and somewhat dour.

American violinist Sarah Chang has the intensity down pat but her animated performance of Jean Sibelius’s “Concerto in D minor of Violin and Orchestra” is anything but dour.

For 30-some minutes she dominates the Overture Hall stage, dressed in a striking blue evening gown, pacing back and forth, her bow undulating like a see-saw and her fingers flashing on the violin strings as if she were playing a piano.

The audience loved it and the audience loves Chang, who has previously played here in 2004 and 2008.

She is a virtuoso musician who made her debut with the New York Philharmonic at age 8. She now tours the world, playing with such luminaries as Pinchas Zukerman, who, as forced coincidence has it, played the Sibelius concerto here in 1974. He was 26 at the time. She will be 34 on Dec. 10.

It was a great performance.

Sometimes when the symphony has a popular headliner the pieces performed by the standalone orchestra seem something like interesting fillers, competently played but sort of edged out of the excitement.

Not so this weekend. Conductor John DeMain and the symphony knocked the notes (I really do have to stop making these tortured descriptions, don’t I?) out of the auditorium both in Edward Grieg’s “Lyric Suite,” as the audience applauded wildly after the first movement, which doesn’t happen often, and in Carl Nielsen’s “Inextinguishable” Symphony No. 4.

The symphony, especially, is a wild work that includes competing timpanists, blaring brass and it was loud and wonderful.

This is likely the last symphony concert before the snow falls and temperatures plummet, so a musically heated farewell to autumn makes sense and the symphony delivered.

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