Ligeti Violin Concerto with Thomas Adès conducting the Boston Symphony
Overall, the entirety of Thursday’s program left a favorable impression, but the performance of Ligeti’s Violin Concerto was a real revelation. Dating from the early 1990s, Ligeti’s work has already established itself as a landmark late-20th-century score — but BSO audiences have had only one chance to hear it before, when Christian Tetzlaff played it in 1997.

The piece itself is a fascinating hybrid of the grand concerto tradition (think virtuosic display, soulful lyricism) and the wildly avant-garde, with hazy unconventional tunings, natural harmonics, ancient choruses of ocarinas, and soundscapes that glitter like shattered glass.

As you might expect given that combination, the score is enormously complex and punishingly difficult to perform. It’s also music that has to be experienced live to fully absorb its astonishing colors. On Thursday night, the gifted young violinist Augustin Hadelich tore into the work with all the expressive intensity he might have brought to the Brahms Violin Concerto. And for his part on the podium, Adès led with an authority born of a fellow composer’s intimate and admiring knowledge of the piece’s inner workings. 

That knowledge ultimately bore fruit in more ways than one. Ligeti leaves a spot in the fifth movement where the performer is invited to interpolate his or her own cadenza. It turned out Hadelich was in luck — Adès composed his own cadenza for the Ligeti Violin Concerto in 2013; and on Thursday Hadelich gave its American premiere. The cadenza is masterful in the way it ventriloquizes Ligeti’s voice, folds organically into what comes before and after, and at the same time ratchets up the level of virtuoso display by several notches. Hadelich’s account was explosive. (BOSTON GLOBE, JANUARY 26, 2018)

Sibelius violin concerto with Andris Nelsons and Boston Symphony at Tanglewood

Between the two works, violinist Augustin Hadelich returned as soloist in the Sibelius Violin Concerto, a work that seemed particularly well-suited to his own interpretive strengths. His account on Saturday was tonally rich and electric, and he followed it with a musically generous encore: the Andante movement from Bach’s Second Sonata. After all the high-strung rhapsodizing of the Sibelius, this humble, wise music from Bach was just what the ear needed to hear. (Jeremy Eichler, BOSTON GLOBE, AUGUST 01, 2016)


A Far Cry Chamber Orchestra - adaptation of Shostakovich's Violin Sonata for violin, strings and percussion
Augustin Hadelich gave a magnificent account of the solo part, showing complete command over dynamics, phrasing, and tone color. He handled the treacherous runs in the scherzo with ease, and there was a terrific sense of give and take with the orchestra. (September 14, 2014)


CD review: Haydn Violin Concertos (Naxos)

The performances confirm Hadelich's high talent, with rock solid intonation and phrasing in music that often makes considerable technical demands on the soloist. The concertos are less inventive works than Haydn's symphonies, and Hadelich wisely doesn't try to make more out of them than is there.

His willingness to take the music at face value is its own kind of sophistication, and confirms him as a musician worth keeping a close eye on.


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