Many debuts last Saturday evening with the National Symphony Orchestra at Wolf Trap: a British violinist in the Bruch “Scottish Fantasy,” and four American vocal soloists in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. All did well.
Violinist Nicola Benedetti played with uncommon seriousness, focus and musicality. In the pea soup of a Washington summer’s evening, strings and bows become balky and recalcitrant, and intonation is a particular challenge on damp fingerboards. Benedetti overcame these obstacles for the most part, a few sour chords notwithstanding.
It was odd she didn’t have the piece memorized for such a high-profile engagement, but the artistry was strong; each movement sharply characterized, and a rich, vocal sound throughout. She seemed to tire near the end, as the passage-work became prosaic. Still, Benedetti is a very fine soloist, who deserves to be heard on a Kennedy Center subscription program. Conductor Emil de Cou was behind her at several points in the Finale, and could have balanced the orchestra better in the loud passages overall, but harpist Dotian Levalier provided solid support.