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Concert Review: Violinist Kutik dazzles DSSO audience

The Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra's "Hidden Treasures" concert Saturday night at the DECC's Symphony Hall offered a trio of works rarely performed by some of the great names in music.

We began with the second recording in the DSSO's Beethoven Project, Symphony No. 4, which will be rebroadcast on Minnesota Public Radio and eventually released on CD. DSSO board member Andrew Ricci provided strict instructions regarding cellphones and throat lozenges to help ensure a pristine recording.

Unlike the bold declarations that begin the symphonies it is sandwiched between, Beethoven's Fourth offers a tantalizing game of misdirection. A pluck of strings unleashed the B-flat minor adagio that slowly unravels and in the fullness of time transforms into B-flat major with a burst of strings and the allegro vivace.

Beethoven temporarily abandoned what would be his Fifth Symphony to work on this one, and the familial relationship between them is clear.

The ebb and flow of lushness added to the airy little theme of the second movement, which had a sort of pastoral quality to it (there is one section that conjures up images of riding a horse to me). The symphony is divided between pairs of adagios and allegros, and the dynamic contrasts of the second movement are doubled down and sped up in the final movement.

After intermission, the common denominator was a pair of one-movement works, which really offer multiple movements in one. The evening's highlight was guest violinist Yevgeny Kutik tackling Glazunov's Violin Concerto, which also began with a pluck of strings and introduces the soloist almost immediately.

The way Glazunov sets up the piece's solo cadenza was fascinating. As the piece developed Kutik played one theme against Janelle Lemire's harp and the cellos, and later another against Kathleen Winter's flute. When the orchestra fell silent, Kutik's filled the hall, sounding for all the world like a violin duet.

The culminating allegro, introduced by the horns, had Kutik responding in kind, evolving into something of playful caper, if not an outright hornpipe.

The most impressive part of Kutik's playing was his control in keeping the notes sounding sweet as Glazunov repeatedly compelled them into the sonic stratosphere with repeated stoppings and strumming pizzicatos.

Kutik was a big hit with not only the audience but the orchestra. While he embraced conductor Dirk Meyer, a sizeable segment of the string section put down their instruments to applaud with both hands.

The evening concluded with Sibelius' Symphony No. 7, which played while landscape photographs of the North Shore and Scandinavia provided by John Heino and DSSO patrons were projected on both sides of the auditorium. Ken Burns-style zooms helped bring the shots of ice encrusted trees and mountain lakes to life.

Serious effort was put into coordinating these photographs with the music. The full brass section came into play against spectacular sunsets, a sequence of shots of the Northern Lights shifted with perfect timing to a photograph of a frozen lake, and the final crescendo played out against an immense bank of clouds.

This fit perfectly with the captivating poster for "Hidden Treasures," a brilliant blending of a photograph of trees with the grim visage of Sibelius, but was also a rare instance of the DSSO actually "off-staging" itself.