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Rebecca Miller, Conductor
Reviews
Violinist intense at Dollar Concert

July 1, 2006, 11:39PM
MUSIC REVIEW
Violinist Lin intense at Dollar Concert

By CHARLES WARD
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

Many Houstonians kicked off their holiday celebrations by packing Jones Hall for the Houston Symphony's annual Houston Chronicle Dollar Concert.

Symphony executive director/CEO Matthew VanBesien began Saturday by lauding the role of the late Houston Chronicle publisher Richard J.V. Johnson in nurturing the decades-old tradition of the Dollar Concert.

Then the orchestra's American Conducting Fellow Rebecca Miller welcomed violinist Shih-Kai Lin, first prize winner in the 2006 Houston Symphony Ima Hogg Young Artist Competition, as soloist in Sibelius' Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47.

The Dollar Concert attracted the biggest crowd in several years. To accommodate demand, management opened Jones Hall's balcony, normally closed off for classical concerts by lowering the movable ceiling. Standby tickets were sold to let in some of the estimated 300 people still wanting tickets close to concert time.

Lin's appearance capped the 30th anniversary of the Hogg competition, upgraded this year to include, for the first time, a finals concert with the orchestra and symphony music director Hans Graf (held at Rice University's Stude Concert Hall).

Saturday, Lin repeated his prize-winning performance of the Sibelius concerto.

His interpretation was notable for a keen understanding of the emotional and structural shape of the music. Though technically not picture perfect, his playing breathed with intensity, drama and solitude.

Playing in the much larger Jones Hall, Lin crucially didn't try to play beyond the limits of his instrument. Sometimes that meant he was not very noticeable when the full orchestra was playing, but he maintained his concentration and purpose in delivering a performance true to his own character.

Miller was a strong accompanist, keeping the orchestra softer than it might play when big-name soloists perform the concerto.

She kept the two outer movements moving crisply and provided a suave background for the sentimental middle movement.

Miller showed similar discipline in the orchestra's all-Russian part of the program: Tchaikovsky's Marche slave , Prokofiev's Symphony No. 1 (Classical) and the Suite from Stravinsky's ballet The Firebird.

March slave oozed sadness and bristled with brassy energy. The Classical Symphony brimmed with puckish humor. The Firebird Suite shocked with its slam-bang drum bursts and seduced with the sumptuous, glittering finale.

Charles Ward, Houston Chronicle
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