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Guest artists put passion on display

Two guest artists are at Kleinhans Music Hall this weekend, glamorous young violinist Elena Urioste and guest conductor Christopher Wilkins. Both are bright, engaging and passionate.

Urioste is the soloist in the romantic Glazunov violin concerto -- why don't we hear this piece as often as the Tchaikovsky, say, or the Sibelius? And Wilkins is leading the orchestra in Schubert's "Great" C Major Symphony.

This concert, in its own way, promises to be one of the most delightful of the whole season.

Urioste is a young artist with poise and a disarmingly direct manner. She swept out on stage in a beautiful black gown and poured her heart into the lovely Glazunov. Her tone was rich, warm and confiding. The beautiful themes soared.

She is not what you would call a fiery performer. Instead, she seemed to come at the music from beneath, bringing out its depths. Reportedly she is playing a violin made in Naples in 1706, and I find that easy to believe after hearing her. The instrument had such a honeyed tone.

Urioste had a delightful way of finishing phrases, dashing them off and then touching her bow to the ground. It was a nice bit of showmanship, perhaps her only one. The last movement, one of the great treats of the violin literature, had her playing off members of the BPO. Jingly and sprightly, the themes echoed each other.

The crowd swooned afterward as a tiny blond moppet, probably one of the Suzuki players who played beforehand in the Mary Seaton Room, walked out and presented the violinist with a bouquet.

You would think anything would be anticlimactic after all that, but the Schubert held its own. Wilkins and the Philharmonic played the Schubert No. 9 as if savoring every bit of it. Their joy was catching.

Wilkins is wonderful to watch. A big, handsome man, he is enthusiastic and demonstrative. The orchestra seems to respond to him. Saturday's playing was full of enthusiasm -- you got the sense that no one was on autopilot. The first movement, unfolding slowly, projected strength.

The second movement was a highlight. Wilkins neatly delineated its nervous pulse, and the pizzicato, from the basses on up, created just the right tension.

The scherzo was colorful, and the last movement had real passion. Wilkins was alert and involved, jouncing on the podium, communicating with the musicians, tracing wide circles in the air. What a theme Schubert throws at you in this movement -- full of a strange kind of longing. You felt it in your gut. That is not as graceful a phrase as Schubert deserves but it is the only way I can think of to say it. Most people must have agreed because at the end, there were shouts, and a standing ovation.

The concert began with Weber's "Ruler of the Spirits" Overture, a seven-minute bonbon full of Romantic texture and humor.

e-mail: mkunz@buffnews.com

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>Concert Review

Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra

Classics concert with guest conductor Christopher Wilkins and violinist Elena Urioste. Saturday evening and 2 p.m. today in Kleinhans Music Hall.

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