Grammy-nominated violinist Elmar Oliveira headlined the opening concert for the 2009 Strings Music Festival on Saturday, with a nuanced, virtuosic performance of Mendelssohn's "Violin Concerto in E minor."

Courtesy photo

Grammy-nominated violinist Elmar Oliveira headlined the opening concert for the 2009 Strings Music Festival on Saturday, with a nuanced, virtuosic performance of Mendelssohn's "Violin Concerto in E minor."

Strings opens concert season with a strong performance

Elmar Oliveira's concerto performance expressive, virtuosic

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— At its season-opening concert Saturday, Strings Music Festival offered a rare chance to hear a popular orchestra piece performed by one of the violin's best players.

Guest artist and Grammy-nominated violinist Elmar Oliveira closed the concert program as the soloist on Felix Mendelssohn's "Violin Concerto in E minor."

Plenty technical and filled with virtuosic lines and flourishes, the Mendelssohn concerto sounds difficult when most people play it. Under a good player - and certainly under Oliveira, who Strings co-music director and conductor for Saturday's concert Andres Cárdenes described a few days before the show as one of the best musicians in the world - that difficulty melts away.

Placing the bulk of his emotional emphasis on the immediately introduced themes of the half-hour-long work, Oliveira made the virtuosic portions of one of the classical repertoire's most lasting concertos sound like nothing - like the showy parts that surround a great melody.

Backed by the newly formed 30-plus-person Strings Festival Orchestra, Oliveira moved through each of the concerto's three movements and cadenzas with nimble fingers and a nimble approach to the music, always keeping the audience involved with careful, expressive dynamics.

The festival orchestra provided ample background for Oliveira's performance, easily handling Mendelssohn's beefy accompaniments without overpowering the soloist. Veteran Strings commentator Ken Greene provided listening directions for the audience before the piece, noting the strands of sound that connect each movement and other elements that make the last violin concerto Mendelssohn wrote a poster piece for his time period.

Saturday's concert opened the second season of operation for the Strings Music Pavilion, which has a freshly painted stage and a few new sound panels on the back wall. An ideal venue for intimate chamber music performances, the pavilion allowed for hearing every note - no matter how small or fast - in Oliveira's performance. The overall sound felt a little empty at the back of the venue, but that likely has more to do with being accustomed to hearing larger ensembles play the concert's final piece than it does with venue acoustics.

The concert opened with Christopher Theofanidis' 1997 composition "Visions and Miracles," and the orchestra gave a tightly rehearsed performance of Beethoven's "Symphony No. 8 in F Major" before intermission.

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