A little over a week after premiering the Symphony No. 11 of Philip Glass at Carnegie Hall, Dennis Russell Davies and the Bruckner Orchestra Linz descended on the Granada with violinist Robert McDuffie in tow for a program that, while it did not include any of the several interesting Philip Glass works that the group has been performing on this tour, did nevertheless succeed in demonstrating the extraordinary musicality of this august organization. The evening opened with the Symphony No. 1 in B-flat Major, Op. 38, “Spring” of Robert Schumann, a work that gave Davies ample opportunity to explore the richly expressive capabilities of these experienced musicians. With its constant flow of harmonic surprises, Schumann’s “Spring” looks ahead musically towards the liberation of its subject from a natural referent to the 20th century idea of spring as a time of unexpected developments and even of revolution.
For those of us who last heard Robert McDuffie when he appeared at UCSB’s Campbell Hall with Anna Deavere Smith back in October of 2015, it was a treat to see him as the highly dynamic center of attention in Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, Op. 14. McDuffie has also been performing a lot of Philip Glass lately, and this was the only part of the concert where the influence of that work was discernible, as the concerto’s dazzling conclusion, marked “Presto in moto perpetuo,” had a certain proto-Glassian flavor. McDuffie’s exceptional tone and control were matched by the sheer exuberance of his physicality as he prowled the front of the Granada stage, stretching and twisting his torso in response to the music.
No evening with this group would be complete without some Austrian delicacies, and this concert included two. The Rosenkavalier Suite of Richard Strauss made an appropriately gargantuan feast of the second half of the program, and for an encore, Davies offered up a taste of what it might be like to visit Linz with an enthralling version of the Blue Danube Waltz. It had the audience up and applauding, then dancing out onto State Street.