This Santa Barbara Symphony matinee, titled Classical Knockouts, pulled out all stops on ruckus familiars like Gioacchino Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” and Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” which bookended the program. But by and large the punch was of a subtler sort. Maestro Kabaretti, who has no objection to conducting a chestnut now and again, was not assembling a “greatest hits” concert. Instead, the force manifested through unexpectedly beautiful turns in a program of short works and a breathtaking debut by a 20-year-old violin soloist.
Canadian Timothy Chooi has been making the rounds since his Grand Prix win at L’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal in 2010. Chooi chose to tackle Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor by Max Bruch for this stellar debut, a work with vigorous runs and challenging double-stops. Speaking of knockouts, during the Adagio movement, Chooi’s 1729 Guarneri del Gesù violin suddenly snapped a string — a rare occurrence allegedly last witnessed 22 years ago, when Itzhak Perlman played with the S.B. Symphony. With only a moment’s confusion, and a brief pause, concertmaster Clayton Haslop instantly turned over his instrument to the soloist, and the cool Chooi resumed.
The second half began with Millennium Overture (1999) by contemporary Flemish composer and conductor Dirk Brossé, a pleasant burst that spread a broad horizon of hope with soaring horn lines, chimes, and full-brass fanfare. Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 in D Major, “Classical” featured a lot of delicate skipping in its faster sections, the winds and strings tightly nested. The concert concluded with a truly enjoyable performance of Grieg’s inspired Suite No. 1 from the Incidental Music to Ibsen’s Peer Gynt.