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Review: DSSO celebrates violinist Erin Aldridge’s virtuosity

On Saturday, it was one of their own who took center stage.

DNT review
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The Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra often features both young artists and seasoned performers as their guest artists each season. For their Saturday night “To Celebrate” concert at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, it was one of their own who took center stage. Erin Aldridge, the DSSO’s concertmaster since 2005, dazzled with her performance of three of the program’s pieces.

Aldridge attended Indiana University where she received her bachelor’s degree in violin performance. She went on to receive her master’s degree and performer’s certificate in chamber music performance from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and later her Doctor of Musical Arts degree in violin performance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

She has won numerous awards as both a soloist and chamber musician and has been featured throughout Europe, South America and the United States as a guest artist. At the University of Wisconsin-Superior, she currently serves as professor of violin and director of orchestras.

Aldridge said she took this opportunity to choose three of her favorite pieces to create her own “concerto.” Thrilling the audience and showing her incredible technique, she began with Camille Saint-Saëns “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso in A minor.” The composer dedicated this piece to his friend, Spanish violinist Pablo de Sarasate.

Saint-Saëns wrote, ““If my violin music was so successful, I owe it to him, because he was for a time the most prominent violinist in the world and he played my works, which were still unknown, everywhere.”

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With her bow flashing though the intricate flourishes of Saint-Saëns' tour de force piece, Aldridge’s virtuosity was on full display.

In a change of pace, the next composition was a soulful take on a spiritual, African-British composer Samuel Coleridge Taylor’s “Keep Me From Sinking Down.” Aldridge and the orchestra gave to what she described as a “lush beautifully orchestrated piece,” the haunting nuances of both the heartbreak and the determination of slaves and their fervent hopes to survive this world and the faith to get them to a next and better world.

A wonderful companion to Saint-Saëns’ piece was Aldridge’s third solo,“Zigeunerweisen,” written by Pablo de Sarasate, the violinist Saint-Saëns praised so much. Sarasate was infatuated by the music of the Roma people; the style and melodies of this piece are both Roma and Hungarian inspired.

Aldridge said that since Sarasate was such an accomplished violinist himself, this work shows off many violinists’ “tricks, bells and whistles.” Aldridge showed herself to be a master of all of those “tricks” and more in her spirited performance.

The orchestra was magnificent throughout the evening, both in accompanying Aldridge, and in the two pieces that beautifully framed the concert, with Johannes Brahms’ “Variations on a Theme by Haydn” opening the evening, and Felix Mendelssohn’s “Symphony No. 3 in A Minor” concluding the program.

I am reminded again, with every concert, what a wonderful jewel of the Northland our Symphony Orchestra is. So many of the DSSO musicians have been and will continue to be guest artists to spotlight their talents.

In Music Director Dirk Meyer’s thoughtful remarks from the stage, he said, “With this world now entering yet the next phase of turbulence and unrest, I do think that it is more important than ever for organizations like ours to keep performing … to keep providing beauty and culture and a place for renewal for our community.”

This concert did serve as a balm and a respite in a week when the world weeps as we are seeing both the best and the worst of humanity.

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If You “Go”

What: DSSO concert “To Celebrate”
When: Streaming now —Virtual tickets for this concert are $15
Tickets: For future concerts, in-person tickets are $20-$58
Information: dsso.com and at 218-623-3776
Next Concert: “To Persevere” March 19 at 7:00 pm at the DECC

Sheryl Jensen is a former teacher, magazine editor and director. She reviews performances for the Duluth News Tribune.

Sheryl Jensen is a former teacher, magazine editor and director. She reviews performances for the Duluth News Tribune.
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