Review: California Symphony premiere of Balch’s “Artifacts” violin concerto

Posted on: May 10, 2019

“One of the things they teach you in composer school is that a concerto is mostly supposed to be a vehicle for the soloist,” writes Joshua Kosman in Tuesday’s (5/7) San Francisco Chronicle. “Composer Katherine Balch has some other ideas on that subject. Balch’s wonderful new violin concerto, ‘Artifacts,’ had its world premiere … on May 5 … by the California Symphony under music director Donato Cabrera. The 25-minute piece featured plenty of opportunities for … violinist Robyn Bollinger…. But perhaps just as notable is the skill with which Balch writes for the orchestra, filling her score with engaging instrumental knickknacks and nuggets of imaginative whimsy that come at the listener from every corner of the stage…. ‘Artifacts’ … is buoyant and puckish…. The piece is in four movements, each inspired by a specific masterpiece of the repertoire for unaccompanied violin [including by] Luciano Berio … Eugène Ysaÿe and Salvatore Sciarrino… The concerto’s lustrous, beating heart is its second movement, after the Capriccio No. 6 of Paganini. Here the violinist does almost nothing but sustain a long trill…. The orchestra, meanwhile, whispers sweet enchantments … a short but breathtakingly beautiful stretch, which Cabrera and the orchestra rendered superbly.”

Posted May 10, 2019